Climate Anxiety: How Climate Change Affects Mental Health

AI-generated image of person with dark cloud over her head
AI-generated image of person with dark cloud over her head

We all know that climate change can directly impact people's physical health and safety, but it can also affect their mental health. Bloomberg spoke to therapists who report they are facing a rise in clients with climate anxiety.

Research done by Force of Nature shows that over 70% of young people feels hopeless about the climate crisis, with only 26% knowing how to contribute to solving it.

What is climate anxiety?

By disrupting various aspects of life and society, climate change generates stress that contributes to increased anxiety levels among individuals and communities.

What factors are responsible for climate anxiety?

  1. Uncertainty and fear of the future
    What will the world be like for future generations? Should I have children? Where should I move to? Climate change brings unpredictability about the future state of the environment, which reflects on our personal lives.

  2. Feelings of helplessness and lack of control
    Individuals may feel frustrated and powerless in the face of climate change, especially if they believe governments and corporations are not doing enough to address the issue, and when ever-present conspiracy theorists deny climate change.

  3. Media coverage and information overload
    Constant media exposure to news about climate-related disasters and crises, sometimes with dramatic imagery and dire predictions, can be overwhelming.

  4. Physical health and safety
    The increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters (like hurricanes, wildfires and floods) and the consequent potential for disease outbreaks threaten health and safety.

  5. Displacement and migration
    Rising sea levels, desertification and other extreme weather events can displace communities, which disrupts lives, homes and communities and creates anxiety around where to live and how to adapt.

  6. Financial and economic concerns
    The economic impacts of climate change, such as damage to infrastructure, increased insurance costs and loss of crops, can cause financial stress.

  7. Interconnected global issues
    Climate change is linked to other global and complex challenges, such as food security, water scarcity, geopolitical instability and loss of biodiversity.

How to cope with climate anxiety?

Because climate change isn't resolvable by any one person, making it very hard for an individual suffering with climate anxiety to gain a sense of control over the problem, experts suggest:

  • 🕛 trying to focus on the present, rather than worrying about the future — it's important to not forget about the goal, but keep your mind on what you can do now
  • 🗣 writing or talking about it — verbalising your feelings and worries always helps
  • ♻️ doing your part, regardless of how small — making any possible actions and changes at home and spreading the word do make a difference
  • 📣 joining groups and organisations that are fighting the problem in some way — find where your strengths and interests lay and team up with others in the same boat; we're stronger together!
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