Medicine, Conflict, and Survival, 29 (3), Taylor & Francis, August 2013.
Political violence is implicated in a range of mental health outcomes, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The social and political contexts of people’s lives, however, offer considerable protection from the mental health effects of political violence. In spite of the importance of people’s social and political environments for health, there is limited scholarship on how political violence compromises necessary social and political systems and inhibits individuals from participating in social and political life. Drawing on literature from multiple disciplines, including public health, anthropology, and psychology, this narrative review uses a multi-level, social ecological framework to enhance current knowledge about the ways that political violence affects health. Findings from over 50 studies were analyzed and used to build a conceptual model demonstrating how political violence threatens three inter-related domains of functioning: individual functioning in relationship to their environment; community functioning and social fabric; and governmental functioning and delivery of services to populations. Results illustrate the need for multilevel frameworks that move beyond individual pathology towards more nuanced conceptualizations about how political violence affects health; findings contribute to the development of prevention programs addressing political violence.