Teenagers' mental health affected by climate change


Anxiety over climate change and its effects on Earth is directly affecting 45% of young people surveyed in 10 countries around the world. — AFP

A global study conducted in 10 countries around the world reveals that 45% of young people suffer from eco-anxiety.

Governments’ inaction on climate issues is frequently cited as promoting this distress.

The study compiles several surveys of 10,000 children and youth (16-25 years old) in Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States.

When asked how they see the future, three out of four of the young people surveyed described it as “frightening”,

More than half of those surveyed said they felt “afraid”, “sad”, “anxious”, “angry”, “powerless” or “helpless”.

This percentage rose to 81% in Portugal, and even to 92% in the Philippines.

Nearly half the young people surveyed (45%) say that climate-related anxiety and distress affects their daily lives.

Of these young people, 64% believe that their governments are “not doing enough” to avoid a climate catastrophe.

While 55% think that they won’t have access to the same opportunities their parents had, 65% believe that governments are “failing young people”, with 58% going so far as to call this inaction a “betrayal” for future generations.

“I grew up being afraid of drowning in my own bedroom.

“Society tells me that this anxiety is an irrational fear that needs to be overcome – one that meditation and healthy coping mechanisms will ‘fix’.

“At its root, our climate anxiety comes from this deep-set feeling of betrayal because of government inaction.

“To truly address our growing climate anxiety, we need justice,” said 23-year-old Mitzi Tan of the Philippines.

“Our children’s anxiety is a completely rational reaction given the inadequate responses to climate change they are seeing from governments...

“This study makes an important contribution to these legal arguments, framing climate anxiety and distress as a ‘moral injury’,” outlined study co-lead author Caroline Hickman from the University of Bath, UK, and an executive committee member of the Climate Psychology Alliance.

“We must consider the futures of young people, listen to their voices and place them at the centre of decision-making.

“By bringing together all generations, we can demand that governments engage in the urgent action on climate change we so desperately need,” notes her colleague Liz Marks.

All over the world, young people are mobilising for the climate.

At the end of the first week of COP26, which took place in November (2021) in the city of Glasgow, thousands of young people took to the streets around the world, determined to make their voices heard and demand climate justice.

“When I was 16... I went through phases of feeling utterly helpless in the face of this immense problem, and then would launch myself into organising protests or changing things within my school...

“It’s so damaging to put this problem on the shoulders of young people – hope needs to come instead from palpable structural action,” says Beth Irving, a 19-year-old climate activist who was behind the Cardiff student strikes. – AFP Relaxnews

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