Political beliefs could be a marker for values associated with health-related behaviors, report the study authors.
Unfortunately for conservatives and moderates, the analysis published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health suggests that they appear more likely to die early compared with liberals.
However, being affiliated with either the Democrat or Republican party did not seem to affect mortality, with affiliates of both parties sharing similar times to death, according to the study authors.
This research was prompted by previous ecological and cross-sectional studies suggesting that there is an association between conservative political ideology and better health.
"In the USA, researchers theorized that political beliefs are a marker for religiosity, civic participation or values that emphasize individual responsibility, each of which has been shown correlated with a healthier pattern of behaviors (e.g., alcohol and tobacco abstinence)," write the authors.
The authors had a concern, however, that subjective assessment of political ideology could influence the results of subjective assessments of health, particularly in cross-sectional studies - research that only examines data from a single point in time.
Politics and mortality
To test these suggestions, they set out to evaluate whether time to death was associated in any way with party political affiliation or political ideology, along with the impact of self-reported health and happiness.
Data was taken from the American 2008 General Social Survey-National Death Index dataset. The time to death for 32,830 participants was analyzed, between the years of 1976 and 2008. This dataset is comprised of interviews conducted in person, utilizing a core set of questions asked each year to a different set of participants.
While there was no difference in time to death between participants affiliated with the Democrat and Republican parties, participants who described themselves as "independents" were significantly less likely to die during the study period. This difference became apparent after the researchers adjusted the data for individual variables such as age, sex, education and household income.
However, participants identifying as liberal were less likely to die early compared with moderates or conservatives. This finding remained the same after adjusting the data for individual variables.
Ideology and party affiliation are 'different predictors of mortality'
"Although researchers argue that the association between political party affiliation and political ideology, and health is explained by sociodemographic characteristics, associations were held when we controlled for these variables," the authors write.
The results were not explained by proposed mediators such as self-reported happiness.
Interpretations of the findings should be made with caution, the authors state. The study is limited due to time-varying predictors such as political beliefs and attitudes only being measured at the baseline.
The authors suggest that future research could investigate possible interactions between political party affiliation or ideology and state-level characteristics - examining the association between risk for mortality and being a Republican in a state that is predominantly Democrat, for example.
"Further research is required in order to determine the potential role of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors in the relationship between political party affiliation and political ideology with time to death," they conclude.
Last month, Medical News Today reported on a study finding that older people who feel younger than their actual age live longer.