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Political ideology and health in Japan: a disaggregated analysis
  1. S V Subramanian1,
  2. Tsuyoshi Hamano2,
  3. Jessica M Perkins3,
  4. Akio Koyabu4,
  5. Yoshikazu Fujisawa5
  1. 1Department of Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Organization for the Promotion of Project Research, Shimane University, Izumo, Japan
  3. 3Department of Health Policy, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  4. 4Waseda University, Tokoyo, Japan
  5. 5Division of Public Policy, School of Administration and Informatics, University of Shizuoka, Shizuoka, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Professor S V Subramanian, Department of Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Kresge Building, 7th floor, Boston, MA 02115, USA; svsubram{at}


Background Recent studies from the USA and Europe suggest an association between an individual's political ideology and their health status, with those claiming to be conservatives reporting better health. The presence of this association is examined in Japan.

Methods Individual-level data from the 2000–3, 2005 and 2006 Japan General Social Survey were analysed. The outcomes of interest were self-rated poor health and smoking status. The independent variable of interest was reported political beliefs on a 5-point ‘left’-to-‘right’ scale. Covariates included age, sex, education, income, occupational status and fixed effects for survey periods. Logistic regression models were estimated.

Results There was an inverse association between political ideology (left to right) and self-rated poor health as well as between ideology and smoking status even after adjusting for age, sex, socioeconomic status and fixed effects for survey periods. Compared with those who identified as ‘left’, the OR for reporting poor health and smoking among those who identified as ‘right’ was 0.86 (95% CI 0.74 to 0.99) and 0.80 (95% CI 0.70 to 0.91), respectively.

Conclusions Health differences by political ideology have typically been interpreted as reflecting socioeconomic differences. The results from Japan corroborate the previous findings from the USA and Europe that socioeconomic differences do not account for health differences by political ideologies. Political ideology is likely to be a marker of several latent values and attitudes (eg, religiosity, individual responsibility and/or community participation) that might be beneficial for health at the individual level.

  • Japan
  • political ideology
  • political issues
  • population surveys
  • self-rated health
  • smoking
  • smoking RB
  • social epidemiology

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  • Funding SV Subramanian is supported by the National Institutes of Health Career Development Award (NHLBI 1 K25 HL081275).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.