“Eco-anxiety”: PH children among the most stressed by the climate crisis


Young activists take part in rallies on climate change. Photo by Callum Shaw via Unsplash

MANILA, Philippines — As the world races to the tipping point of climate catastrophe, children in the Philippines and beyond are suffering from climate and ecological anxiety and distress.

A preliminary study by The Lancet, a highly respected scientific and medical journal, used the term eco-anxiety which it says is characterized by a wide range of painful and complex emotions such as worry, fear, anger, grief, despair, guilt. , shame and hope linked to the climate crisis.

Events that cause eco-anxiety, according to the study, include storms, wildfires, changing landscapes and rising temperatures which are all linked to climate change.

“These experiences were seen as understandable, congruent and healthy responses to the threats we face,” the study said.

“However, their intensity and complexity can be experienced as relentless psychological stress,” he said.

In another journal, Nature, also peer-reviewed, researcher Sarah Ray said the study “provides a case for anyone with a connection to youth mental health.”

“Climate change is a real dimension of their mental health issues,” Ray said.

Eco-anxiety in young people

The Lancet study, the largest of its kind, interviewed 15,543 children aged 16 to 25 in 10 countries, including the Philippines, the United Kingdom (United Kingdom), Finland, France, the United States (United States), Australia, Portugal, Brazil, India, and Nigeria.

“These countries were chosen to reflect populations in the North and South, representing a range of cultures, incomes, climates, climate vulnerabilities and exposure to different intensities of climate-related events,” the study says. .

The researchers analyzed the responses of 10,000 participants, 51% of whom were men and 49% women, who responded to the survey.

The first set of questions included:

  • Climate concern (level of concern about climate change).
  • Climate-related functional impact (feelings about climate change negatively affecting functions).
  • Climate-related emotions (presence of 14 key positive and negative emotions about climate change).
  • Climate related thoughts (presence of seven key negative thoughts about climate change).

The results showed that the majority of respondents reported a significant amount of worry. More than 60 percent said they feel very worried (32 percent) or extremely worried (27 percent) about climate change.

Screenshot of the preprint study.

At least 25 percent felt moderately worried, 11 percent were a little worried, while five percent said they were not worried about climate change.

The countries where most respondents felt “very worried” and “extremely worried” were from countries that are experiencing severe impacts of climate change, including:

  • Philippines: 84% (49 extremely worried, 35 very worried)
  • India: 68% (35 extremely worried, 33 very worried)
  • Brazil: 67% (29 extremely worried, 38 very worried)

Screenshot of the preprint study.

Among high-income countries, Portugal, which suffered from intense forest fires, had the highest rate of very worried and extremely worried respondents, at 65%.

Most respondents also associated negative emotions with the climate crisis, including “sad”, “fear”, “anxious” and “helpless”.

Emotions associated with climatic disasters were measured in percentages:

  • Sad: 68%
  • Fear: 68 percent
  • Anxious: 63%
  • Angry: 59%
  • Helpless: 57 percent
  • Guilty: 51%
  • Optimistic: 32%
  • Indifferent: 20 percent

Over 45% said feelings about climate change negatively impact their daily lives.

Screenshot of the preprint study

A high percentage of respondents also said they have negative thoughts due to climate change, such as:

  • People haven’t taken care of the planet: 83%
  • The future is scary: 75%
  • Humanity is doomed to failure: 56%
  • Children have fewer opportunities than parents: 55%
  • Most values ​​will be destroyed: 55%
  • Family security will be threatened: 52%
  • Reluctance to have children: 39%

Voices ignored

Unfortunately, the concerns and opinions of young people about climate change are often ignored, according to the study’s findings.

Of those who said they spoke with others about climate change (about 81.2 percent of total respondents), almost half or 48.4 percent said other people ignored or dismissed them.

“The results of thoughts and feelings about climate change varied widely from country to country, but were remarkably present in all populations,” the study said.

The researchers also found that respondents “tended to rate the government’s response negatively.”

More participants agreed on negative statements about the government’s response, including:

  • Young defaulters: 65%
  • Lying on the impact of actions taken: 64%
  • Ignoring people’s distress: 60%
  • Betray myself or betray future generations: 58%

While positive statements about the government’s response were only 30 percent:

  • Act in line with climate science: 36%
  • Protect me, the planet and future generations: 33%
  • Can be trusted: 31%
  • Do enough to avoid disaster: 31%
  • Take concerns seriously enough: 30%

“The results show that the distress seems to be greatest when people think the government’s response is inadequate,” the researchers noted.

Respondents from the Philippines believed the government had lied about the impact of climate change action (69%), let young people down (68%), betrayed future generations (56%) and rejected l youth call to action (53 percent).

Yet 52% said the government was acting on climate change.

“The distress in the face of climate change is associated with the fact that young people perceive that they have no future, that humanity is doomed, that governments are not responding adequately, and with feelings of betrayal and abandonment on the part of governments and adults, ”the study said.

“The failure of governments to adequately tackle climate change and its impact on younger generations is potentially moral prejudice,” he said.

“Nations must respond to protect the mental health of children and young people by engaging in ethical, collective and policy-based action against climate change,” he added.

Why is this important

The study raises awareness of the discussion about the critical impacts of climate change on the mental health and morals of children around the world.

The researchers explained that the psychological burdens of climate change, coupled with the moral wounds caused by disdainful adults or governments, are chronic stressors that will have “significant, lasting and progressive negative implications for the mental health of children and adults.
young people.”

They also argued that the negative emotions, or climate anxiety and eco-anxiety, felt by children in the face of the climate crisis are important because they show that the younger generation cares about the world.

“Climate anxiety may not be a mental illness, but the realities of climate change and the failure of governments to act are chronic, long-term and potentially unavoidable stressors; conditions under which mental health problems will worsen, ”the researchers said.

“Such high levels of distress, functional impact and feelings of betrayal will inevitably have an impact on the mental health of children and youth,” they added.

The study is also pushing adults and the government to take responsibility for eco-anxiety in young people.

“We argue that the failure of governments to adequately reduce, prevent or mitigate climate change contributes to psychological distress, moral injury and injustice,” the study said.

“Climate anxiety in children and youth should not be seen as simply caused by ecological disaster, it is also caused by more powerful ‘others’ (adults and governments) failing to act on the threats they face. are facing, ”he continued.

As one respondent put it to the researchers, “I don’t want to die. But I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t care about children and animals.


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