'Woke' people more likely to be unhappy, anxious and depressed, new study suggests

Study Suggests ‘Woke’ Individuals May Experience Higher Levels of Unhappiness, Anxiety, and Depression

Can being unaware actually make us happier?

Researchers from Finland have embarked on a unique journey to explore how deeply individuals are committed to social justice principles. Their research has unveiled some intriguing insights among the Finnish populace, revealing a surprising link between progressive beliefs and lower happiness levels.

The study, which was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, indicates that this trend might not be unique to Finland. Similar patterns could exist in other Western countries among those who are highly aware of social issues.

Oskari Lahtinen, a leading researcher at the University of Turku’s INVEST Research Flagship Centre, observed that discussions around “wokeness” have permeated Finnish society. He noted the absence of data-driven discussions on the topic, which sparked his interest in investigating the prevalence of these attitudes. Lahtinen aimed to develop a reliable tool to measure these attitudes across different demographics, as no such tool existed before this study.

The research team delved into a wide array of academic fields, including intersectional feminism, critical race theory, and queer theory, to inform their understanding of critical social justice, as reported by PsyPost.

The initial phase of their study involved a pilot survey with 851 participants, most of whom were connected to the University of Turku. After refining their approach, they expanded the study to include a larger, more representative group of 5,000 individuals through a collaboration with Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest newspaper.

The outcome of their efforts was the Critical Social Justice Attitude Scale, which outlines seven key beliefs commonly held by those who are “woke.” These include the view that income disparities between white and black people are due to racism, the need for university reading lists to feature fewer white or European authors, and the importance of actively challenging microaggressions, among others.

One of the most unexpected findings, according to Lahtinen, was the gender divide in attitudes towards “wokeness.” The study found that while three out of five women viewed “woke” ideas positively, only one out of seven men shared this sentiment. This was particularly evident among women in the social sciences, education, and humanities fields, whereas individuals in STEM fields were more likely to critique social justice efforts associated with being “woke.”

Moreover, the study highlighted a concerning link between mental health and agreement with the scale. Specifically, a high incidence of anxiety and depression was observed among individuals who agreed with the statement that income disparities between white and black people are due to racism. More broadly, those who identified as left-wing were more likely to report lower mental well-being.

Lahtinen cautioned against immediately applying these findings to international contexts, especially in other Western countries. He emphasized that while the study’s methodology was robust, with a significant sample size and strong psychometric properties, further validation in North American contexts is necessary to understand how these attitudes manifest there. Lahtinen encouraged his peers in the United States to explore the prevalence of these attitudes in the country of their origin.