Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Men's Health

Font Size

Is Democracy Good for Your Health?

Researchers Say Free Societies May Better Meet People's Needs

WebMD Health News

Dec. 16, 2004 -- Next time you belt out the old patriot lyric "let freedom ring," consider this: Freedom really does make you feel better.

A new study in the British Medical Journal shows that people who live in democratic societies are physically healthier than those governed by repressive regimes.

Researchers in Spain used published freedom ratings from 170 countries to explore the impact of democracy on overall life expectancy and mother and infant mortality. Published freedom ratings are based on a country's political rights, type of government, and civil liberties, such as freedom of speech and religion.

About 45% of the countries included in their study were deemed "free" societies, a third were partially free, and about a quarter were completely repressive.

After adjusting for a country's wealth, population, and level of inequalities, lead researcher Alvaro Franco and colleagues discovered that democracy ruled when it came to the best levels of health.

They found that life expectancy was significantly longer in free societies. In addition, infant deaths and maternal deaths during birth were much lower in democracies.

The level of health declined in proportion to the amount of freedom, with the unhealthiest people living in repressive societies.

"The way societies organize themselves through their political regimes ... could have a more important role in health than structural variables such as wealth and the size of the public sector," the researchers write in the journal report.

The reasons for the democracy-health connection are unclear, but the researchers speculate that democratic governments better recognize a citizen's needs and give residents better access to information, more opportunities for empowerment, and social networking.

The researchers say if their findings are confirmed, a country's freedom rating could help lay the groundwork for a new way of reducing national mortality.

Today on WebMD

man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore.
man swinging in hammock
And how to get out it.
shaving tools
On your shaving skills.
muscular man flexing
Four facts that matter.
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Man taking blood pressure
doctor holding syringe
Condom Quiz
man running
older couple in bed