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Climate Change Affecting Millennials & Gen Z: Reports of Climate Anxiety Rising

Climate Change

Published on Feb 17, 2022

Climate crises top the list of vital global challenges of all time. While bleak headlines shine the limelight on climate change, there is an urgent need to address it. Given the rising cases of what psychologists call “eco-anxiety”, climate crises are impacting our mental health. 

Climate anxiety or eco-anxiety is gaining attention worldwide. People are becoming increasingly aware of the current and future global crises associated with climate change. But the crises are leaving long-term imprints on physical and mental health. 

What is eco-anxiety? 

Eco-anxiety can be defined as distress over what has already been lost, as concern over climate crisis or other environmental threats, and their effects on our present and the future. Eco-anxiety is exacerbating health and social inequalities between young minds vulnerable to psychological impacts.  

This rise is a wake-up call for world leaders to take decisive action to tackle the rising climate emergency. 

Increasing levels of eco-anxiety, also known as the chronic fear of environmental doom, is damaging to many in the long term. Although not yet deemed as a diagnosable condition, recognition of eco-anxiety and its complex psychological effects are on the rise. 

Young people are “excessively” concerned about the rising climate crisis, according to the data, published by researchers from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. 

If –the question is, how are young people coping with eco-anxiety?  

The answer is “not well”. 

Evidence: Statistical analysis 

The researchers with the U.K.’s University of Bath and other schools surveyed 10,000 people, between the age of aged 16 and 25 from 10 countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, India, Finland, Portugal, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Brazil, to gauge their feelings about climate change. 

The overall response could be summed up in one expression: “incredibly worried”. The respondents also emphasized the fact that they think the governments aren’t doing enough to combat climate crises.  

Results show that nearly- 

  1. 75% described the future as “frightening”, 
  1. 60% said they were “extremely” worried about climate change,  
  1. 45% said their thoughts about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning, and  
  1. 83% believe we as a community have failed to take care of the planet. 

When questioned about the struggles, the respondents selected- 

  1. Climate change at 41%, 
  1. Global warming at 57%, highest among environmental issues, 
  1. corruption at 36%, as one of the most important issues at a national level, 
  1. terrorism at 31% 
  1. economic instability at 26%, 
  1. pollution at 26%, 
  1. income inequality at 25%,  
  1. climate change at 22%, and  
  1. violence against women at 21%

Feelings of helplessness 

Young people’s emotions relate to their feelings of betrayal and abandonment by governments and adults. With governments failing to respond adequately to the plea, the young individuals are experiencing feelings of “no future” and “humanity doomed”. For many, these emotions of fear and worry affect their ability to function in day-to-day life too. 

Read more: “The Ultimate Climate Action”: The Hottest New Tech Trend Is Going 24/7 Carbon-Free, Not Carbon-Neutral 

Key highlights of the survey: 

  1. Three-quarters of respondents described the future as “frightening”. 
  1. 64% of young respondents said that governments are not doing enough to avert the climate crisis. 
  1. Half said their anxieties about climate change are negatively impacting their daily lives. 
  1. More than half said they are concerned about the future of the planet. 

Governments around the globe must protect the mental health of young changemakers by initiating action against climate change. Leaders across the world have been neglecting the crises, casting doubt on humanity’s future. More than anyone, the future, that is marching on the way of destruction, belongs to young people. 

The Psychological Burdens  

Climate crises are causing distress, anger, and other negative emotions in children and young people worldwide. This ‘eco-anxiety’ is hampering their daily lives. Chronic stress over climate crises is adding to the risk of mental and physical problems. If severe weather events worsen, their mental health impacts are likely to follow. 

Read more: “Net-Zero by 2070”: #COP26 Climate Deal, Here Are the 5 Biggest Talking Points 

A Generation Betrayed 

The study warns that the government’s inaction is psychologically damaging and potentially violates international human rights law. The rising anxiety among Gen Z is a completely rational reaction to the inadequate responses from the government to climate change crises. They are worried and angry about what they see ahead. It is a future they feel could have been prevented, given prompt measures would have been implemented on time. 

The younger generation is now mobilizing and taking the government administration to court; claiming that failure to act on climate crises violates their human rights. 

The survey also highlighted one unusual statistic. 

48% of respondents reported that they were dismissed or ignored when they tried to initiate a conversation about climate change with others. 

The study inferred that there’s a correlation between the young people’s negative emotions and beliefs that government responses to climate crises have been inadequate. The way governments have been addressing or failing to address the climate crises is directly impacting the mental health of young people. 

What are young people doing to help solve the environmental distress? 

Scientists have been warning of the threat of global warming and its impact on the climate for decades. Regardless, the government kept averting and dodging the issues over other existing crises. Owing to the lack of action from global governments, young people are now taking it upon themselves to rise from these crises. 

Young climate activists like Greta Thunberg and others are taking to the streets to protest against the lack of action on climate change. Many new climate activists are offering and arranging local workshops and training a generation that wants to support the cause and become “changemakers”.  

Young, politically savvy climate activists are taking all the right measures to make their voices heard. Instead of trying to control or channel activism, the government and adults should be joining them to ensure that all of us have a decent future to look forward to. 

The environmental crisis protests are catching the eye of sustainable and environmentally conscious investors. Global assets have seen a surge in sustainability-related investment criteria. Employing meaningful action that addresses climate emergency, reduces inequality, and imposes genuine reforms to end abuses of power will benefit us in tackling the climate crises and emerge into a new decade of reforms.  

Read more: 100% Clean Energy? The US Need Not Look Beyond Solar, Wind, and Hydropower. Here’s Why 

How ESG Consulting & Sustainable Investing could calm this rising eco-anxiety? 

The chronic psychological fear of environmental meltdown or eco-anxiety is on the rise. Increasing numbers of young people are feeling overwhelmed by the rising challenge of climate change. The rising crises like record-breaking temperatures, melting ice sheets, and higher levels of greenhouse gases are taking a toll on mental health and adding to the physical implications of climate change. The concerns of higher temperature increase are compounding our sense of helplessness and the failure to make any meaningful progress. 

Sustainable Investing to calm the rising eco-anxiety is the need of the hour. Adapting and integrating a sustainable way could potentially boost psychological well-being. Applying an exclusionary screening procedure, followed by ESG integration into the investment process can assist the government in making more sustainability-themed investments. 

Final Thoughts 

Young people around the globe are extremely worried about the climate crisis and are frustrated at governments’ quiescence in the face of the planet’s miserable future. Climate anxiety and dissatisfaction with the government are widespread in the minds of children and young people across nations and it is impacting their day-to-day life.   

Perceived negligence of the governments towards the climate crisis is being associated with increased distress. 

Combating climate change individually isn’t enough. There is a dire need for further research into the emotional impact of climate change on young people. Governments need to validate this distress by taking urgent action on climate change. Those in power hold a responsibility to act to not only protect the Earth but also the mental health of the young minds who stand to inherit the planet. 

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