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Mental Health Challenges, Whistleblowing, and the World Happiness Report

Posted  March 26, 2024

The United States has fallen off the top twenty countries listed in The World Happiness Report (“WHR”).    According to the WHR, Finland remains the world’s happiest country, and fellow Nordic countries like Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Norway remain in the top 10.   The WHR report, which is a partnership with Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, studies numerous factors including social support, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices and corruption levels across 140 countries.   Although the United States has fallen to number 23 on the rankings, interestingly our youth are more depressed than the over-60 segment of those surveyed.  It’s hard not to posit that some of this differential may be attributable to the impact of social media on the younger generations. 

What does this report mean for Whistleblowers who already face mental health challenges?   A comparative study conducted in the Netherlands revealed that whistleblowers may suffer from anxiety and depression, interpersonal sensitivity and distrust, sleeping problems and other issues.   Promoting happiness and well-being, both mental and physical, benefits everyone, including those whistleblowers who bravely speak out against fraud and wrongdoing.  

Studying commonalities of countries who remain routinely amongst the highest on the list may have utility for understanding what we can do to improve our own well-being.   While we have many crucial protections in the United States, including basic rights such as Freedom of Speech and various statutes protecting those who report fraud, mismanagement and threats to public safety from retaliation, including the anti-retaliation provisions of the False Claims Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the federal Whistleblower Protection Act (1989) that safeguards federal employees and contractors, we clearly can do more for ourselves and our fellow whistleblowers to seed happiness and well-being in our lives. 

Let’s start by encouraging a society that values truth-telling and promotes ethical practices, to educate people about the value of whistleblowing, to provide the brave who speak up (and all of us) with proper resources like proper access to mental and physical healthcare, support groups and other resources.  We can and should create more supportive environments in the workplace and beyond and hopefully we will rise in future rankings of the World Happiness Report.