Eco-Anxiety — a Real, Often Frightening Thing

Asha Bajaj
4 min readFeb 13, 2022

by Debra Atlas

#EcoAnxiety; #ClimateChange; #GoodGriefNetwork

Climate change. Image credit: Pixaby

The idea of climate change affecting people’s well-being may seem like science fiction. Yet the evidence of climate change has barreled full force into our lives — more frequent, more destructive hurricanes; rising temperatures; melting glaciers and disintegrating ice shelves; severe droughts. This has given rise to what’s termed eco-anxiety. And psychologists are paying attention.

A 2017 report by the American Psychological Association linked the impact of climate change to mental health and referenced ‘eco-anxiety’ as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” The Climate Psychology Alliance — founded by Portland psychologist Thomas Dogherty who specializes in climate — sees this as “an inevitable, even healthy response to the ecological threats we are facing, such as food/water shortages, extreme weather events, species extinction, increased health issues (and pandemics), social unrest and potentially the demise of human life on Earth.”

According to a NY Times article, many leaders in mental health maintain that anxiety over climate change is no different, clinically, from anxiety caused by other societal threats, like terrorism or school shootings. And climate-related anxiety seems to be more common in young people.

The “People’s Climate Vote” — an innovative poll by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of Oxford released in early 2021 — surveyed 1.2 million people, over 500,000 under the age of 18. In that poll, young people (under 18) were more likely to say climate change is an emergency than older people. But 65 percent of 18 to 35-year-olds agreed.

Another climate anxiety survey of 10,000 young people (aged 16–25) across ten countries revealed:

  • over 45 percent said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily lives.
  • three-quarters believe “the future is frightening.”
  • 56 percent said “humanity is doomed.”

A 2018 United States survey found almost 70 percent were worried about climate change, while around 51 percent felt “helpless.”

Asha Bajaj

I write on national and international Health, Politics, Business, Education, Environment, Biodiversity, Science, First Nations, Humanitarian, gender, women