Survival of the Fittest? An Exploratory Analysis of Reported Health Among Political Elites and Ordinary Citizens in Germany in the 2010s
Paper to be presented at the European Political Science Association Annual Conference in Milano, Italy, 22-24 June 2017
9 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 16, 2017
How do elected politicians fare in terms of their health compared to the general public? This paper explores four dimensions of reported health from an original survey of local councillors, regional MPs and mayors in Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), and compares the findings with the general German public that is further sub-divided in politically inactive and active citizens. Theoretically, the analysis widens the scope of resources and motivation of political participation by looking at physical characteristics of individuals. There is a clear increase in levels of health from least to most active for two dimensions of health (well-being and functional health). For sports activities as a measure of behavioural health, this pattern also holds except for professional politicians. Physical health, however, does not vary systematically across groups. The paper discusses the meaning of this additional layer of inequality between political elites and non-elites, next to education, income and gender. Given that health has its roots in a complex interplay of genes, upbringing, medical provisions, past and present behaviour, its relationship with political activity raises important questions about the meaning of health for access to democratic politics.
Keywords: elites, political elites, health, political participation, Germany, representation
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