Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Could this be the next health craze? (courtesy MaxSpeak)
PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISORY. [from Yahoo!] Protesting "is good for you" Group protests, or "collective action", may have health benefits for participants, according to research by UK psychologists. A study by Dr John Drury, a lecturer in social psychology at the University of Sussex, suggests that group protesting and demonstrating is good for people's health because it encourages a sense of empowerment, mutual support and unity. "Many published activist accounts refer to feelings of encouragement and confidence emerging from experiences of collective action," said Dr Drury. "It's similar when people come out to welcome home a winning football team, go to Trafalgar Square on New Year's Eve or go to a rave. They have a sense of community - but with protest, people have the addition of a sense of changing the world." The study involved more than 40 in-depth interviews with activists and protestors from a variety of backgrounds. Participants described more than 160 experiences of collective action, including raditional marches, fox hunting sabotages, anti-capitalist street parties, environmental direct action and industrial mass pickets. "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," explained Dr Drury. He found that the protestors experienced events as joyous occasions, almost without exception, and that they felt a deep sense of happiness and even euphoria at being involved. Simply recounting events in interviews brought a smile to their faces, Dr Drury added. Even when demonstrations involved violent clashes with the police, protestors tended to feel good if they thought they had won the battle. If the police were seen as the victors, less experienced demonstrators had negative feelings, while veterans were able to put events into context and deal with their emotions. Over the last few years, psychologists have become more interested in how psychological and physical good health can be improved by positive experiences, which improve the speed of physical recovery, the ability to cope with stress and a reduction in pain, anxiety and depression. "The take-home message from this research, therefore, might be that people should get more involved in campaigns, struggles and social movements," said Dr Drury. "Not only in the wider interest of social change, but also for their own personal good."
I've only participated in one protest so far and I can attest to the feelings of euphoria given by the experience of being surround by thousands of fellow travelers.

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