By Melissa Wuske
The Most Important Voter Issues
Nearly a third of voters say a candidate’s position on issues is the most important factor in choosing whether to vote for that person, according to a Barna Research study. Tied for second place (11 percent each) were the candidate’s experience/track record and their leadership qualities.
While candidates campaign on an array of issues, the study found that only two issues have “a lot of influence” for the majority of respondents: 55 percent said national defense is one of the most important issues as they select a candidate; 50 percent said immigration/border control is a primary issue. Other vital issues mentioned were gun policies (49 percent), the federal budget deficit (48 percent), and poverty (42 percent).
The study also looked at how different faith groups responded on each issue. Evangelicals mentioned marriage and abortion as important issues twice as often as the total average. Evangelicals were also more likely to cite immigration and the federal deficit, but they were much less likely (by half) to say that a candidate’s views on environmental care had a lot of influence.
Church Attendance and Mortality Rates
A study by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health found that women who attend religious services at least once a week have a 33 percent lower mortality risk than women who don’t attend services. Of the women studied, those who attended religious services at least once a week had a lower rate of cardiovascular mortality (by 27 percent) and cancer mortality (by 21 percent).
While the population surveyed represents a limited group, “our results suggest that there may be something important about religious service attendance beyond solitary spirituality,” said Tyler VanderWeele, a professor of epidemiology and senior author of the study. “Part of the benefit seems to be that attending religious services increases social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression, and helps people develop a more optimistic or hopeful outlook on life.”
Health Care for Low-Income Children
The number of children in low-income households who have health insurance is on the rise. In 2008, only 81.7 percent of children eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) were enrolled. In 2014, the first year of the new federal health care regulations, 91 percent of eligible children were enrolled. “I was surprised to see gains to such an extent in 2014, and for that to happen for so many different kinds of kids and in so many different places,” said Genevieve Kenney, codirector of the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center.
Most of the 4.5 million children who were eligible but unenrolled had been enrolled previously. “That puts the spotlight on renewal and retention,” said Kenney. As a result, Medicaid or CHIP are reconsidering their eligibility and renewal requirements for children, so that more children can remain covered.
Friendship Is Better Than Morphine
Scientists at Oxford University compared people’s pain tolerance with the size of their interpersonal network. Endorphins—feel-good chemicals released when socializing, exercising, and other activities—counteract pain, and the study found that people with larger relational networks have greater pain tolerance. In fact, endorphins can have pain-mitigating effects even greater than morphine. Katerina Johnson of the Department of Experimental Psychology said, “These results are also interesting because recent research suggests that the endorphin system may be disrupted in psychological disorders such as depression. This may be part of the reason why depressed people often suffer from a lack of pleasure and become socially withdrawn.”
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).