Photo of Dr Luca Bernardi

Dr Luca Bernardi BA, MA, PhD

Senior Lecturer in Politics Politics

Research

Mental Health and Politics

One in three individuals in Europe experiences at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any given year (Wykes et al. 2015), with mood and anxiety disorders being at the top of the list. According to the WHO, depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide. One in six English adults experience a common mental disorder such as depression or anxiety, and only one third of those seek mental health treatment (McManus et al. 2016). In the US, Kessler et al. (2003) report that the prevalence of individuals with major depressive disorders for lifetime was 16% (32.6- 35.1 million US adults) and for 12-month was 7% (13.1-14.2 million US adults). In COVID-19 times, these figures have worsened. For instance, OECD data reveal that prevalence rates of depression and anxiety have doubled or more than doubled in several countries.

Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety have important implications for people's daily functioning as well as people's cognitive and emotional processes. Politics is not an exception and this is confirmed by recent research on health and political behaviour which identified a (mental) health-voting gap.

My research draws from political science, psychology and neuroscience and explores a wide range of questions around the intersection between mental distress, cognitive biases, emotion regulation strategies, and politics. On the one hand, I am interested to understand whether and how common mental health problems affect the way people perceive and engage with and in politics, how they evaluate political objects, how they select and process information, how they make political decisions, and whether mental distress influences political attitudes and behaviours. On the other hand, I am interested to understand the effects of politics as a stress / risk factor for mental health and wellbeing. More recently, I have been working on two projects on the impact of Covid-19 stress factors and anxieties on symptoms of mental distress and political attitudes (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/humanities-and-social-sciences/research/coronavirus-research/covid-mental-health/); a third one is a partnership with the European Social Survey where our interdisciplinary team will further study the relationship amongst political engagement, depression, and generalised anxiety disorder.

In addition, based on my research and teaching experience on the relationship between public opinion and public policy since my PhD studies, I am also interested in the connection between mental health as a policy issue and political representation. In "Mental Health and Political Representation: A Roadmap" (which has received more than 17,000 views since February 2021) I advance a research agenda on the topic on which I am working with my coauthors.

By the way, whenever I can, the titles of my research are inspired by my music taste (and I am glad my brilliant coauthors have never protested).

Here is some of my current research:

N.d. - Down but not yet out: Depression, political efficacy, and voting (Forthcoming in Political Psychology, with Mikko Mattila, Achillefs Papageorgiou, and Lauri Rapeli)

2022 - COVID-19 stressors, mental/emotional distress, and political support (ECPR 2021, APSA 2021, online in West European Politics, with Ian H. Gotlib)

2021 - Effects of COVID-19-related life changes on mental health in Syrian refugees in Turkey (BJPsych Open, with Ian H. Gotlib and Ozge Zihnioglu)

2021 - Mental health and political representation: A roadmap (Frontiers in Political Science)

2021 - The Syrian Refugee Mental Health Panel Study: The COVID-19 Report (with Ozge Zihnioglu and Ian H. Gotlib)

2020 - Depression and attitudes to change in referendums: The case of Brexit (OnlineView in the European Journal of Political Research, with Rob Johns)
Public engagement: BBC Radio 4 Documentary 'Do voters need therapy?' (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000ffzz)
Blog post University of Liverpool: Depression, status quo bias and the Brexit referendum (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/politics/blog/2020/depression/)
Blog post ECPR's The Loop: Brexit and depression: the politics of mental health (https://theloop.ecpr.eu/brexit-and-depression-the-politics-of-mental-health/)

2020 - Depression and political predispositions: Almost blue? (Party Politics)

N.d. - Depression and the gender gap in political interest (under review, with Christopher Ojeda and Claudia Landwehr)

N.d. - Depression and negativity bias in political evaluations (ISPP 2019, EPSA 2019, work in progress, with Robert Johns)

N.d. - Never let me down? Depression symptoms reduce the effect of political habits on vote choice (ISPP 2019, EPSA 2019, CAP 2019, work in progress, with Guillem Rico and Eva Anduiza)

N.d. - Kind of blue: Unpacking left-right to understand the policy preferences of individuals with depressive symptoms (conference paper ISPP 2020)

N.d. - Leave Me Alone: Depression, item response, and political representation (conference paper APSA 2021, with Robert Johns)

N.d. - A cognitive theory of depression and political attitudes (under review, with Ian H. Gotlib)
Public engagement: University of Liverpool blogpost (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/coronavirus/blog/juneposts/depression-and-politics-during-pandemic/) and presentation at the Psychology of Democracy conference (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/humanities-and-social-sciences/research/coronavirus-research/covid-mental-health/).

N.d. - Rumination and political engagement (under review, with Ian H. Gotlib and Fortunato Bernardi)


PhD Supervision:
Daniel Bowman: Mental Health Policy in Britain from the Perspectives of Civil Society, Medical Professionals, and Politics Elites in the 21st Century.

Public Opinion and Public Policy

My first academic love was with how political competition influences government responsiveness to public opinion. My PhD dissertation investigated how electoral incentives - such as government vulnerability in the polls and electoral proximity - condition whether governments respond to public opinion's priorities and preferences. I am grateful to my PhD supervisor Prof Laura Morales for giving me the incredible opportunity to undertake this research within her ERC-funded ResponsiveGov project. Here you find some of the published and ongoing research on the topic. As you never forget your first love, stay tuned.

2020 - The Public, the Protester, and the Bill: Do Legislative Agendas Respond to Public Opinion Signals? (Accepted for publication in the Journal of European Public Policy, with Daniel Bischof and Ruud Wouters)
Public engagement: Article recommended by the Comparative Agendas Project (https://www.comparativeagendas.net/news/just-published-cap-in-the-european-journal-of-public-policy)

2018 - The effects of the Fukushima disaster on nuclear energy debates and policies: a two-step comparative examination (Environmental Politics, with Maarja Lühiste, Laura Morales, and Daniel Bischof)

2018 - Policy Responsiveness and Electoral Incentives: A (Re)assessment (Political Behavior)

2018 - From popularity to vulnerability: An application to dynamic representation in coalition governments (Party Politics)

The Effectiveness of Online and Offline Protest and Advocacy on Policy Change (conference paper, with Louisa Parks and Laura Morales)

Voters' Responsiveness to Parties' Policy Rhetoric and Action

If you are a young researcher and you are evaluating the pros and cons of spending a research stay in another institution my impartial advice would be: do it and choose wisely! Not only it can be such an enriching experience, but you can get the chance to start incredible collaborations and friendships with amazing academics and human beings. This is what happened to me and my research visiting at the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Davis with Prof James Adams. Almost all the research that is reported here is the product of such incredible collaboration.

N.d. - Party Policy Shifts, Issue Ownership, and Their Electoral Consequences (Under review, with James Adams, Lawrence Ezrow, and Zeynep Somer-Topcu)

N.d. - Governing Status and Intra-Party Disagreement in Advanced Democracies (Under review, with Francesco Visconti, Oriol Sabaté, and Laura Morales)

2020 The Simplest Government Heuristic of All: Citizens Infer that Governing Parties are Pro-European Union (Forthcoming in Comparative Political Studies, with James Adams and C. Michelle Phillips)

2019 - Social Welfare Policy Outputs and Governing Parties' Left-Right Images: Do Voters Respond? (Accepted for publication in the Journal of Politics, with James Adams and Christopher Wlezien)

2019 - A problem with empirical studies of party policy shifts: Alternative measures of party shifts are uncorrelated (European Journal of Political Research, with James Adams, Lawrence Ezrow, Oakley Gordon, Tzu-Ping Liu, and C. Michelle Phillips)

2019 - Governing Coalition Partners’ Images Shift in Parallel but Do Not Converge (Journal of Politics, with James Adams)

2019 - Does Government Support Respond to Governments’ Social Welfare Rhetoric or their Spending? An Analysis of Government Support in Britain, Spain and the United States (British Journal of Political Science, with James Adams)
Public engagement: Article recommended by the Comparative Agendas Project (https://www.comparativeagendas.net/news/new-article-in-bjps-using-cap-data-from-spain-uk-us)

2017 - Challenges of political participation and intra-party democracy: Bittersweet symphony from party membership and primary elections in Italy (Acta Politica, with Giulia Sandri and Antonella Seddone)

Research Grants

The consequences of Covid-19 responses on mental health and political attitudes

BRITISH ACADEMY (UK)

July 2020 - September 2021