Numerous research studies have shown the ways that climate anxiety is increasing among young people, and the emotional demands of activist work. Here are links to some important studies* in these areas, and organizations focused on the intersection of climate and mental health:
* For free access to some of these articles, you may wish to create an account at Academia.edu.
Climate & Mental Health
Over half of Americans report a negative emotional response to climate change, including roughly 1 in 4 survey respondents who report more intense feelings, such as very anxious (26%), very fearful (24%), and very angry (24%).
…warming of 1–6°C could result in an annual increase of 283–1,660 additional suicide cases…
…a cross-sectional study on mental health in six African countries representing different regions revealed that more than half of the population acknowledged the occurrence of climate change and reported experiencing some form of impact.Ref
…This evokes feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and homesickness, often correlated with mental ill health… Higher rates of substance misuse have been reported among people displaced and exposed to extreme climate stressors in South Africa.Ref
…most respondents were concerned about climate change, with nearly 60% saying they felt ‘very worried’ or ‘extremely worried’… Overall, 45% of participants said their feelings about climate change impacted their daily lives.
…experiences with the natural environment play a fundamentally important role in addressing the 6 existential anxieties of identity, happiness, isolation, meaning in life, freedom, and death—a perspective that we call Eco-Existential Positive Psychology. Moreover, we propose that affiliating with nature affords us the opportunity to be fully flourishing human beings. This article provides supporting evidence for Eco-Existential Positive Psychology via an interdisciplinary literature review.
…spirituality mediated the relationship between nature connectedness and the well-being dimensions of self-acceptance, purpose in life, personal growth, positive relations with others, and autonomy, but not environmental mastery.
Environmental psychologists may now consider connection to nature as one broad construct…
There are multiple aspects or dimensions of connection to nature, each of which has its own unique conceptual meanings but at the same time shares a substantial overlap with other aspects that warrants an identification of a common core.
The majority of participants reported feeling sad, angry and frustrated about climate change and environmental degradation. Participants also reported feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, fear, guilt and numbness.
“The biggest thing is that it saddens me to think that humanity can be this disinterested or blind to the consequences of our actions,” said one participant in the follow-up anonymous survey.
Participants most often reported feeling anxiety about external things (impact of their actions on the earth, effects on future generations), though levels of internal anxiety (rumination, stress) were also high.based on The Climate of Community Research Study with the University of Kansas – June 2021
“This study provides arguments for anyone who has any connection to youth mental health — climate change is a real dimension into their mental-health problems,” says Sarah Ray, who studies climate anxiety at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California.
The survey — the largest of its kind — asked 10,000 young people in 10 countries how they felt about climate change and government responses to it.
Compared to the national average and older adults, more young Americans between 18-29 feel curious, angry, fearful, and anxious when they think about climate change, and fewer feel optimistic… There’s no question why young people feel angry — they stand to inherit a world afflicted by climate change and face the impacts for more years of their life should the trajectory of inaction persist.
… the stress of a climate crisis during a crucial developmental period, coupled with an increased likelihood of encountering repeated stressors related to climate change throughout life, will conceivably increase the incidence of mental illness over the life course.
Professionals with expertise in child development who are committed to the well-being of the next generation have many avenues for action to help ensure that youth inherit a livable planet… We must focus on the overwhelming majority of people living in the developing world, who will experience the worst climate impacts. Theoretical concepts developed in the minority world, such as resiliency, positive development, and meaning-focused coping, need to be tested and refined to ensure that programs to support young people fit local contexts…
From conversations with students who have engaged in school strikes, we know how youth’s activism has helped them manage their anxiety about the future and channel it into determination, courage, and optimism.
…nature connectedness—which was associated significantly with higher levels of emotional and psychological well-being—correlates positively and significantly with students’ self-recalled positive childhood nature experiences… findings suggest that positive experiences in natural places growing up may have long-term mental health benefits through fostering a more ecological self.
Global Organizations & Businesses
We are psychiatrists who raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on mental health, do what we can to mitigate climate distress, and join with others to address root causes of the climate crisis.climatepsychiatry.org
We are a community of mental health professionals who educate and train mental health professionals in climate-aware practices and inform the public about the mental health impacts of climate change.climatepsychology.us
We believe that the therapeutic community has a vital role both in providing support and in deepening our understanding of how climate anxiety plays out both in our individual lives and in our culture. We hope that this work can also throw light upon the psychological resources – acceptance of the tragedy in the mass extinctions of species and the ability to grieve our losses as well as resilience, courage, radical hope and new forms of imagination that support change.climatepsychologyalliance.org