Toxic leadership: Global political landscape is damaging our mental health


A study released today has revealed 19% of people in the UK and US believe the current political landscape is taking a toll on their personal wellbeing.

There is a disconnect between the attitudes of the youngest and oldest segments in the US, while attitudes across audiences are more aligned in the UK.

Political divide

In the US, nearly a third (29%) of those aged 55+ feel the political climate is holding them back from improving their wellbeing, almost double the number of 18-34 year olds, which stands at 17%.

In the UK, around a fifth (18%) of younger people and 15% of over 55s are worried about the impacts of national politics on their wellbeing.

The in-depth survey of 2,000 people in each market was conducted by STRAT7 Researchbods and examined the different factors affecting people’s wellbeing and asked what they’re doing to look after it.

Sarah Askew, Innovation Director at STRAT7 Researchbods, said: “Half the world’s population is heading to the polls in 2024, those of us in the UK and US can look forward to nearly a year of electioneering before we find out who’ll be leading our countries.

“That’s a long time to put up with uncertainty, and with national politics taking up even more space than usual in public discourse, it’s not surprising this is already taking a toll on our wellbeing.

“However, it seems people are less concerned about party politics, less than 10% of all audiences are worried about how changes to legislation could potentially impact their wellbeing – they are more focused on macro challenges.”

Cost-of-living crisis

The ongoing cost-of-living crisis is seen as the greatest drain on people’s wellbeing, and particularly for younger people – it was identified as a key concern by 55% of 18-34 year olds across both markets.

Twenty three percent of 18-34 year olds in the UK worry about the threat of recession, compared to just 8% of older people.

This is a greater source of anxiety for all segments in the US, despite having a relatively stronger economy than the UK – 25% of 18-34 year olds and  20% of those over 55 share this concern.

In spite of this, half (50%) of young people in the UK expect their financial wellbeing will improve over the course of the year and this cautious optimism is shared by 42% of young families.

The outlook is even more positive in the US, 60% of 18-34 year olds think their financial situation will improve in 2024, and that rises to 64% of young families.

Further positivity is apparent in attitudes to emotional wellbeing – at least among younger people. Just over half (54%) of 18-34s in the UK and 60% of those in the US are positive about the outlook for their emotional wellbeing this year.

However, this view is not shared by the over-55s, only a fifth (21%) in the UK and 38% in the US feel their emotional wellbeing will improve this year.

People on both sides of the Atlantic are tackling wellbeing in broadly similar ways; all cohorts are spending more time on their hobbies – 51% in the UK and 58% in the US, and 34% (of total) are limiting their social media usage.

The latter is particularly apparent in younger audiences in the US, 39% of pre-families and 49% of young families are cutting down on their use of social media, and a third of the same groups of people are also cutting back in the UK.

Fifty three percent of 18-34 year olds in the UK and the US are avoiding the news and 43% are not engaging in political conversations with family or friends.

Askew added: “The data suggests younger people are becoming less engaged with party politics in the UK and the US. For instance, only around a tenth of 18-34 year olds are worried about the impacts of legislative change on their wellbeing.

“This seems surprising given the airtime already being given to a potential change in leadership, particularly in the United States.

“This isn’t to suggest young audiences have become any more politically apathetic though. Around a fifth of 18-34s on both sides of the Atlantic say they are engaging with grassroots activism for the causes they care about to actively support their personal wellbeing.

“While faith in national politics seems to be dwindling, there is an opportunity for brands to fill the void and take a stance on issues that really matter to their customers.