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The psychological state of our political system: how the pressures of working in Parliament affect democratic decision making

05 October 2020

The stress and pressures of working in Parliament could place major psychological strain on MPs and staffers, and have a serious impact on their decision making ability, says a new report by the BPS.

Looking at Parliament through a psychological lens, the BPS has investigated the occupational landscape for those that work there. Informed by interviews with MPs, former MPs and staffers, the research looks at nine factors in Parliament which can have a significant impact on people’s ability to conduct political work, including distrust, political labour, fragmented organisational cultures, unclear lines of authority, and the temporal nature of Parliament itself.

Ashley Weinberg, chair of the BPS Political Psychology Section and one of the document’s co-authors, said:

“We know that work plays a central role in our identity and meaningful activity in life is key to our wellbeing.

We do not often study politics as a high-stress profession through a psychological viewpoint, but it is vitally important that we do so.

We need to understand the environment and the stressors it brings, so we that can develop a workplace which is better positioned to support democratic functioning, and as a result, policy outcomes.”    

Sarb Bajwa Chief Executive of the British Psychological Society said:

“We want our Parliament to function effectively, with the best policy decisions made, for the benefit of all. 

By recognising the uniqueness of Parliament, and the different pressures it brings as a workplace, we can ensure those who work in it are supported to make the best decisions.”

The report also makes nine recommendations to better support the psychological wellbeing of all those that work in Parliament, and to help control the stressors and mitigate their negative impacts.

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