The results of the 2016 presidential election and the Brexit referendum shocked many of us. People on one side of the Atlantic voted to leave the European Union without knowing what the consequences might be, and on the other side a billionaire reality TV star with a history of making controversial comments got elected into the White House.
If you endured sleepless nights after the results were announced, it turns out you were not alone.
A study of 11,600 people wearing Nokia Health monitoring devices has found that their biorhythms changed during and after historic political moments, such as the Brexit votes and the election of Donald Trump.
It is well known that stress can increase heart rates and cause sleepless nights, but researchers knew little about how this connects to huge societal changes.
“We wanted to add in the quantitative data,” says Daniele Quercia of Nokia Bell Labs.
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The researchers investigated the wearers’ data between April 2016 and April 2017. They discovered that as well as sleeping patterns being disturbed by the results, heart-rate and exercise patterns of a large number of people were affected by these big societal events.
The researchers observed normal changes in people’s heart rates during events such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The heart rates tended to increase around these holidays and then return to normal afterwards.
However, it took people’s heart rates longer to return to normal after Brexit and Trump election.
American half of the data was collected in San Francisco, California. Participants in San Francisco had their heart rates rise from an average of 66 beats per minute to 70 beats per minute on the Election Day, according to the study. And not only that, four months later, participants’ heart rates still had not returned to normal, reports New Scientist.
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In London, 1 in 8 individuals got 10% less sleep following the Brexit referendum results, while 1 in 8 had disturbed sleep patterns, and disruptions in heart rates and physical activity levels after the vote.
Factors such as weather and news users of the Nokia device were accounted by the team.
“Our body’s natural rhythms get disrupted for a variety of external factors, including exposure to collective events,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
“While Christmas and New Year’s eve are associated with short-term effects, Brexit and Trump’s election are associated with longer-term disruptions. Our results promise to inform the design of new ways of monitoring population health at scale.”
The results were published in arXiv.