Climate Anxiety

26th September 2022

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Climate Anxiety: Raising Awareness

Climate anxiety, or anxiety caused by concern for the effects of climate change, was named the “biggest pop culture trend of 2019” by Grist magazine. Although some may be sceptical of its existence, climate anxiety is real, and it’s having a big impact on the young people of today.

With increased media coverage of events such as the United Nations COP26 summit and Extinction Rebellion protests, young people have been called to arms against global warming by inspiring young activists like Greta Thunberg. With increasing concern for the future, young people are frustrated and are demanding positive action against climate change. So, what is climate anxiety? How is it impacting mental health? And what can we do to support young people as they navigate an uncertain future?

What is climate anxiety?

Climate, or eco-anxiety, is anxiety caused by the perception of climate change. Ranging from a fear of losing homes to an existential concern for the future, climate anxiety can affect anyone who has an awareness of climate change. However, it seems to be particularly prevalent in young people.

When the Lancet surveyed 10,000 young people (aged 16-25) across the globe, 100% said they were worried about climate change, with 45% reporting that climate anxiety is having a negative impact on their daily life and functioning. Feeling sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty, young people are incredibly worried about the future.

Perhaps they should be. Climate anxiety is not an unreasonable response to climate change. It may even be necessary to enact movement towards climate positive measures. However, when the anxiety becomes all-encompassing and is significantly impacting day-to-day life, measures should be put in place to manage the negative consequences.

Climate anxiety and mental health

Climate change is having both direct and indirect effects on young people’s mental health. While increased natural disasters (e.g., wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, heatwaves) can be directly associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and/or substance abuse, the uncertainties associated with climate change may also interfere with a young person’s sense of security and purpose.

Someone experiencing climate anxiety may feel worried, nervous, or scared for the future. They may also experience low mood related to feelings of hopelessness and/or powerlessness. While these difficulties can develop into a disorder, in most cases, they can be managed at home:

If you’re a parent/carer:

If you’re a young person:

Further information

Article date 26th September 2022

Article written by Imogen Clifford, Assistant Psychologist, Bristol CBT Clinic