Voter participation among people attending mental health services in Ireland

  • Brendan D. KellyEmail author
  • Michael Nash
Original Article



People with mental illness experience social and political exclusion but there is limited understanding of voting behaviour in this population.


This study assessed voter participation and attitudes towards voting among people attending mental health services in Dublin, Ireland.


Psychiatry outpatients and inpatients were studied over2 months following Ireland’s 2016 general election (n = 117). Characteristics of participants who did and did not vote were compared and reasons for voting choices explored.


Over half of participants (52.1%) voted (national rate 65.1%) although more (83.8%) were registered. Forty-one percent had insufficient information about voting: the most common information deficits related to voting rights (31.6%) and voting in hospital (18.8%). Inpatients (20.0%) were substantially less likely to vote than outpatients (63.2%). Majorities endorsed the importance of people with mental illness voting. The most common reasons for not voting were being in hospital (32.1%) and not being registered (30.4%).


Politicians should note that a majority of people with mental illness are outpatients and a significant proportion vote. Voting among inpatients has improved since 2011 but more information and support are needed to optimise voting rates in this population.


Mental health services Mental illness Social exclusion Voting 



The authors are very grateful to the reviewers for their comments and suggestions.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This study was approved by the Faculty of Health Sciences Ethics Committee at Trinity College Dublin (reference 151102).

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin, Trinity Centre for Health SciencesTallaght University HospitalDublin 24Ireland
  2. 2.School of Nursing and MidwiferyTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

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