Commitment to social justice causes and progressive ideology may have surprisingly negative effects on an individual’s mental health, psychological researchers in Finland have found.

According to the results of a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, Finnish citizens who associate themselves with “woke” ideologies are more likely to experience depression and anxiety—a finding with broader implications for the rest of the Western world.

The study began with extensive research into intersectional feminism, critical race theory, queer theory, and other areas of study that contribute to critical social justice, according to PsyPost. From there, a nationally representative sample of 5,000 participants were polled about their stances on key social justice issues, as well as their own mental health.

Learn the benefits of becoming a Valuetainment Member and subscribe today!

“I had been paying attention to a development in American universities, where a new discourse on social justice became prevalent in the 2010s,” said study author Oskari Lahtinen, a senior researcher at the INVEST Research Flagship Centre at the University of Turku. “While critical social justice (or intersectional or ‘woke’) discourse draws mainly from dynamics within American society it has now surfaced in other Western countries as well. The arrival of a critical social justice (often called ‘woke’) discourse sparked much debate in Finnish media in the last couple of years.”

“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.”

Lahtinen’s final survey criteria, called the “Critical Social Justice Attitude Scale” identified seven truisms of “wokeness.”

  • “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)

According to the final findings, the Finnish public is far less sold on social justice causes than it might initially seem. This was especially obvious among male respondents, who disagreed with the seven statements far more frequently than their female counterparts.

“The gender divide was probably most surprising to me,” Lahtinen told PsyPost. “Three out of five women view ‘woke’ ideas positively, but only one out of seven men. This was the case in Finland, at least.”

High levels of “woke” were also detected among those working in the social sciences, education, or humanities, while those in STEM fields were likely to be critical of social justice efforts.

The study’s most concerning result found a direct correlation between agreement with the scale and experiencing mental health problems. Specifically, those who believed the statement “if white people have on average a higher income than black people, it is because of racism” were drastically more likely to report anxiety and depression.

Across the board, those who identify as left-wing were more likely to report lower mental wellbeing.

However, Lahtinen cautioned against applying these findings to broader Western audiences without further study.

“The studies were quite robust with a sample size above 5,000 and good psychometric properties,” he 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.”

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

Add comment