Climate anxiety in children and young people
Lancet 2021 0907
University of Bath
University of Bath
University of Helsinki
College of Wooster
Eric R. Lewandowski
New York University (NYU) - Langone Health Center
Elouise E. Mayall
University of East Anglia (UEA)
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
Lise van Susteren
Background: Climate change has significant implications for the health
and futures of children and young people, yet they have little power to
limit its harm, making them vulnerable to increased climate anxiety.
Qualitative studies show climate anxiety is associated with perceptions
of inadequate action by adults and governments, feelings of betrayal,
abandonment and moral injury. This study offers the first large-scale
investigation of climate anxiety in children and young people globally
and its relationship to government response.
Methods: We surveyed 10,000 young people (aged 16-25 years) in ten
countries. Data were collected on their thoughts and feelings about
climate change, and government response.
Findings: Respondents were worried about climate change (59% very or
extremely worried, 84% at least moderately worried). Over 50% felt sad,
anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty. Over 45% said their
feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and
functioning, and many reported a high number of negative thoughts about
climate change. Respondents rated the governmental response to climate
change negatively and reported greater feelings of betrayal than of
reassurance. Correlations indicated that climate anxiety and distress
were significantly related to perceived inadequate government response
and associated feelings of betrayal.
Interpretation: Climate change and inadequate governmental responses
are associated with climate anxiety and distress in many children and
young people globally. These psychological stressors threaten health
and wellbeing, and could be construed as morally injurious and unjust.
There is an urgent need for increases in both research and government