An important new research paper by George Yancey here helps develop our understanding of the effects of identity politics on mental health. Yancey compares levels of mental well-being in both political progressives and political conservatives and looks at ways in which identity politics may affect individuals on both the left and the right. While previous research here suggests that political progressives have lower levels of mental well-being than political conservatives, it is not clear why this might be the case.
Yancey explores the effects of the ‘Great Awokening’ and whether the decline in well-being may be linked to this event. He also considers differences in well-being between those on the left, who are concerned with class issues, and those who focus on identity politics. Yancey cites Gimbrone et al.’s study here on the effects of identity politics on adolescents’ well-being. He also references Lukianoff and Haidt’s arguments here about ‘common enemy identity politics’ and the way in which progressive beliefs promote emotional reasoning, dichotomous thinking and a lack of internal agency.
The Yancey paper concludes: ‘there are reasons to believe that engagement in identity politics may be detrimental’ and calls for measures to be put in place that ‘support the well-being of those who choose to engage in such a political approach’. He suggests that it may be fruitful for professional counsellors to find ways of helping individuals, on both left and right, who engage in identity politics to move away from ‘outgrouping’, regulate their emotions and regain an internal locus of control.
For us at CTA, what is particularly encouraging about Yancey’s paper is that it considers the effects of identity politics on the well-being of individuals on both the left and right of the political spectrum. Such research is needed if we are to move beyond political polarisation and restore a sense of common humanity.