Ditch the Prozac and get a placard

December 20, 2002

Demonstrating is good for your health. Psychologists at Sussex University have found that taking part in mass protests has the sort of positive effect that has been linked with speeding physiological recovery, reducing pain and boosting the ability to cope with physical stress.

John Drury, lecturer in social psychology, interviewed nearly 40 activists. They described more than 160 instances of collective action from anti-capitalist street parties to industrial mass pickets. All reported feeling empowered by the experience. "The main factors contributing to a sense of empowerment were the realisation of the collective identity, the sense of movement potential, unity and mutual support within a crowd," Dr Drury said.

He added that they reported a deep sense of happiness and even euphoria from being involved. "Simply recounting the events in the interview itself brought a smile to (their) faces," he said.

Dr Drury said psychologists were increasingly interested in the role of positive experiences and emotions in promoting psychological and physical health.

He said: "The message from this research might be that people should get more involved in campaigns, struggles and social movements, not only in the wider interest of social change, but also for their own personal good."

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