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Climate Change Is Affecting Our Mental Health

Published on: March 17, 2022.


55% of people

are anxious about the impact of climate change on their mental health

About this Data Insights

Climate change refers to the permanent disruption of weather patterns, not just temperature increases. Some of these weather-related changes include increased floods, droughts, wildfires, storms, heat waves, and rising sea levels. These conditions have far-reaching environmental, social, agricultural and economic effects and are ultimately harmful to our health and well-being. Climate change not only affects our physical health, but can also harm our mental health and wellness. Climate change can cause and intensify stress and anxiety, adversely affecting mental health. Events such as extreme storms or extreme heat can lead to depression, anger and even violence. The destructive effects of climate change and the resulting poor mental well-being are likely to fall disproportionately on communities that are already disadvantaged by historic and current social, economic and political oppression.

This infographic highlights the challenges facing humanity in regards to mental well-being and climate change as well as offers steps that can be taken to build mental health resilience.

This infographic was reviewed by Susan Clayton, PhD, MS, Professor of Psychology and Environmental Studies at the College of Wooster.


If you are experiencing a mental health crisis call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, or text MHA to 741741 to reach a trained Crisis Counselor 24/7


Citations
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Climate change definition: American Public Health Association and ecoAmerica, Making the Connection: Climate Changes Mental Health, May 2016

What Do People Think About Climate Change?

67% of American’s agree climate is affecting the populations health: American Psyciatric Assication, APA Public Opinion Poll – Annual Meeting 2020, September 14-16, 2020

  • NOTE: Public opinion poll interviewed 1,004 US adults from September 14-16, 2020

55% of American’s are anxious about climate change: American Psyciatric Assication, APA Public Opinion Poll – Annual Meeting 2020, September 14-16, 2020

  • NOTE: Public opinion poll interviewed 1,004 US adults from September 14-16, 2020

The impacts of a changing climate: Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Speiser, M., & Hill, A. N. (2021). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Inequities, Responses. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica.

Does Climate Change Affect Our Mental Health?

Climate anxiety definition: Cimons, M. (2014). Climate Anxiety Tightens Its Grip. Corporate Knights, 13(3), 67–68.

Study of young people and climate change: Hickman, C., Marks, E., Pihkala, P., Clayton, S., Lewandowski, R. E., Mayall, E. E., ... van Susteren, L. (2021). Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: A global survey. The Lancet. Planetary Health, 5(12), e863-e873. doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00278-3

  • NOTE: Study surveyed 10,000 children and young people aged 16–25 years in ten countries: Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, the UK, and the USA. 1000 participants per country.Survey was completed between May 18 and June 7, 2021.

51% of young people feel helpless: Hickman, C., Marks, E., Pihkala, P., Clayton, S., Lewandowski, R. E., Mayall, E. E., ... van Susteren, L. (2021). Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: A global survey. The Lancet. Planetary Health, 5(12), e863-e873. doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00278-3

  • NOTE: Study surveyed 10,000 children and young people aged 16–25 years in ten countries: Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, the UK, and the USA. 1000 participants per country. Survey was completed between May 18 and June 7, 2021.

What Is Extreme Weather's Impact on Mental Health?

1 in 5 people have mental illness: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP21-07-01-003, NSDUH Series H-56). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

25-50% of people who are exposed to a weather disaster: American Public Health Association and ecoAmerica, Making the Connection: Climate Changes Mental Health, May 2016

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • PTSD

  • Suicide

Depression after a natural disaster: American Public Health Association and ecoAmerica, Making the Connection: Climate Changes Mental Health, May 2016

Suicide after Hurricane Katrina: American Public Health Association and ecoAmerica, Making the Connection: Climate Changes Mental Health, May 2016

Direct exposure to large-scale fires: Silveira S, Kornbluh M, Withers MC, Grennan G, Ramanathan V, Mishra J. Chronic Mental Health Sequelae of Climate Change Extremes: A Case Study of the Deadliest Californian Wildfire. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(4):1487.

1980s drought in the US and suicide rates: American Public Health Association and ecoAmerica, Making the Connection: Climate Changes Mental Health, May 2016

Anxiety or mood disorders after Hurricane Katrina: American Public Health Association and ecoAmerica, Making the Connection: Climate Changes Mental Health, May 2016

Climate affects mental health graphic: U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2016: The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. Crimmins, A., J. Balbus, J.L. Gamble, C.B. Beard, J.E. Bell, D. Dodgen, R.J. Eisen, N. Fann, M.D. Hawkins, S.C. Herring, L. Jantarasami, D.M. Mills, S. Saha, M.C. Sarofim, J. Trtanj, and L. Ziska, Eds. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, 312 pp.

Who Is Vulnerable To Mental Health Impacts of Climate Change?

Everyone is at risk, but not everyone is affected equally: American Public Health Association and ecoAmerica, Making the Connection: Climate Changes Mental Health, May 2016

Communities who are at higher risk of poor mental health due to climate change: Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Speiser, M., & Hill, A. N. (2021). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Inequities, Responses. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica.

  • Those with close ties to the land
  • Migrants & refugees
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Elderly
  • Children
  • Pre-existing mental illness
  • Those who are mobility impaired

Black and Brown Communities: Green America, People of Color Are on the Front Lines of the Climate Crisis, 2015

How To Build Mental Health Resilience During Climate Change?

Personal Resilience: Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Speiser, M., & Hill, A. N. (2021). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Inequities, Responses. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica.

  • Strengthen social networks

  • ​​Find a source of personal meaning

  • Build belief in one’s own resilience

  • Foster optimism and hope

Community Resilience: Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Speiser, M., & Hill, A. N. (2021). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Inequities, Responses. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica.

  • Prioritize community building

  • Address disparities

  • Involve the community

  • Update communications and infrastructure

What Can Mental Health Professionals Do?

Mental health professionals and climate change: Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Speiser, M., & Hill, A. N. (2021). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Inequities, Responses. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica.

What Can Society Do?

Climate change and society: Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Speiser, M., & Hill, A. N. (2021). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Inequities, Responses. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica.

Additional Resources
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Climate Change Resources - Climate Change Resources

Climate Change Resources for Educators and Students - Environmental Protection Agency

Resources for working with climate emotions - All We Can Save

Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance - American Psychological Association, ecoAmerica, and Climate for Health


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