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

Is ignorance bliss?

Psychological researchers in Finland have created an assessment to help measure an individual’s commitment to principles of social justice and made some surprising findings across the Finnish population — including a negative correlation between progressive ideals and levels of happiness.

Their findings, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, suggest other Western nations may see similar patterns among their socially conscious citizens.

Study author Oskari Lahtinen, a senior researcher at the INVEST Research Flagship Centre at the University of Turku, remarked that the “woke” discourse has since worked its way into Finnish discourse.

“This debate was largely data-free and it could thus be considered a worthwhile question to study how prevalent these attitudes are,” he continued. “No reliable and valid instrument existed prior to the study to assess the extent and prevalence of these attitudes in different populations, so I set out to develop one.”

their research trajectory included extensive reading on intersectional feminism, critical race theory, queer theory, and other relevant academic disciplines that inform critical social justice, PsyPost reports.

The pilot survey included 851 adult participants most of whom were associated with the University of Turku. After refining the initial scale, the study was expanded to a more representative national sample of 5,000 participants, distributed via Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest newspaper.

In the end, their final Critical Social Justice Attitude Scale identified seven truisms of woke people:

  • “If white people have on average a higher level of income than black people, it is because of racism.”

  • “University reading lists should include fewer white or European authors.”

  • “Microaggressions should be challenged often and actively.”

  • “Trans* women who compete with women in sports are not helping women’s rights.” (reverse scored)

  • “We don’t need to talk more about the color of people’s skin.”

  • “A white person cannot understand how a black person feels equally well as another black person.”

  • “A member of a privileged group can adopt features or cultural elements of a less privileged group.” (reverse scored)

Marco – stock.adobe.com
Marco – stock.adobe.com

“The gender divide was probably most surprising to me,” Lahtinen told PsyPost of Finnish attitudes. “Three out of five women view ‘woke’ ideas positively, but only one out of seven men.”

This was especially true of women in fields such as social sciences, education, and humanities. By contrast, participants who worked in STEM were more likely to critique social justice efforts associated with being woke.

However, the most concerning finding was the relationship between mental health and agreement with the scale. Specifically, researchers found a high prevalence of anxiety and depression in people who believe the statement “If white people have on average a higher income than black people, it is because of racism.” More broadly, they found that those who identified as left-wing were most likely to report lower mental well-being.

Lahtinen warned against extrapolating their findings to international audiences just yet, particularly across Western nations.

“The studies were quite robust with a sample size above 5,000 and good psychometric properties,” Lahtinen said. “However, the scale would need to be validated in North American samples in order to know how these attitudes manifest there. I encourage colleagues in the United States to study the prevalence of these attitudes in the country where they originate from.”