The climate crisis is taking an increasing toll on the mental health of children and young people, experts warned.
Rising levels of “eco-anxiety,” the chronic fear of environmental ruin, are likely to be underestimated and harmful to many in the long run, public health experts said..
In an article in the British Medical Journal, Mala Rao and Richard Powell of the Department of Primary Care and Public Health at Imperial College London said that ecological anxiety “runs the risk of exacerbating health and social inequalities among the more or less vulnerable to these psychological impacts. “
Although it is not yet considered a diagnosable condition, recognition of eco-anxiety and its complex psychological effects is increasing, they said, as is its “disproportionate” impact on children and youth.
In their article, they pointed to a 2020 survey of child psychiatrists in England showing that more than half (57%) see children and young people distressed by the climate crisis and the state of the environment.
A recent international survey on climate anxiety in 16 to 25-year-olds showed that the psychological burdens of the climate crisis were “deeply affecting large numbers of these young people around the world,” they added.
Rao and Powell called on world leaders to “recognize the challenges ahead, the need to act now, and the commitment necessary to create a path to a happier and healthier future, leaving no one behind.”
The research offered insights into how young people’s emotions were linked to their feelings of betrayal and abandonment by governments and adults, they said. Governments were seen as not responding adequately, leaving young people “without a future” and “humanity doomed”.
His warning comes a week after Greta Thunberg criticized world leaders, dismissing their promises to address the climate emergency as “blah, blah, blah.”
In April, he quoted Boris Johnson derisively using the phrase “rabbit hugs” to describe climate activism. Thunberg said: “This is not an expensive, politically correct rabbit hugging act.”
By 2030, carbon emissions are expected to increase by 16%, according to the UN, instead of falling by half, which is the reduction necessary to keep global warming below the internationally agreed limit of 1.5 ° C. .
Rao and Powell said it was important to consider what could be done to alleviate rising levels of climate anxiety.
“The best opportunity to increase optimism and hope in youth and adults with ecological anxiety is to ensure that they have access to the best and most reliable information on climate mitigation and adaptation,” they said. “Information on how they could connect more strongly with nature, contribute to greener choices at the individual level, and join forces with like-minded communities and groups is especially important.”
Separately, new research also published in the BMJ suggests that changing unhealthy behavior could be key to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Theresa Marteau of the University of Cambridge said technological innovation alone would be insufficient.
Adopting a primarily plant-based diet and taking most travel using a combination of walking, cycling and public transportation would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve health, he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism