The anxiety of young people linked to climate change is a global phenomenon, shared by young people from countries in the North and in the South of the planet. This is the worrying result of a large study by the University of Bath (UK), approved for publication in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health and relayed by The world. The authors collected data from 10,000 young people aged 16 to 25. Young people were invited at regular intervals to complete surveys, between May 18 and June 7, 2021. They were aware of the duration of the survey, but did not know the subject.
In total, 15,543 young people started the survey, and 68% went through. They came from ten countries (United Kingdom, Finland, France, USA, Austria, Portugal, Brazil, India, Philippines, Nigeria). The questionnaire was developed by 11 international experts in emotions linked to climate change, in clinical and environmental psychology, psychotherapy, and other specialties concerned with the issue of anxiety linked to climate.
60% of young people “very” or “extremely” worried
The results show a majority of young people expressing negative feelings, anxiety or worry, about climate change: almost 60% said they were “very” or “extremely” worried, and 45% said that their feelings were About the climate negatively affect their daily life. This expression was more present in poorer countries, in the South, and more directly affected by climate change. In Europe, it is Portugal (which saw an increase in dramatic fires in 2017), which is the country where young people have expressed the highest level of concern.
The future is scary. Humanity is fucked up
More than half of the respondents expressed a range of negative emotions, such as fear, sadness, anxiety, anger, helplessness, or guilt. The least frequently reported emotions were optimism and indifference. Three-quarters (77%) of those polled said the future was scary. Of those who say they spoke with others about climate change, nearly half (48.4%) said the rest ignored or repackaged them. The feelings expressed vary from country to country, but are clearly present throughout the population.
Feeling of political betrayal
Government action is assessed negatively. In all countries, participants reported more feelings of betrayal than reassurance. Here too, there are important differences depending on the country. The researchers also noted a correlation between negative feelings, worry about the weather, and feelings of betrayal or negative emotions about the government’s response.
Mental health affected
In conclusion, the authors believe that with such levels of distress, these feelings of betrayal will inevitably have an impact on the mental health of children and youth. Climate anxiety is not in itself a mental illness, but we do deal with long-term, and potentially inevitable, stressors. The mental health of young people could therefore deteriorate. Governments are warned, a few weeks before Cop 26, in Glasgow: inaction or the inadequacy of their responses will also be responsible for this degradation.