Mental Health

Mental Health

The impacts of climate change are familiar — more and more we see news about extreme weather events, droughts, water scarcity, wildfires, and flooding and their impacts on agriculture and human systems, particularly children and youthThe impact of these events on health and mental health is becoming clear. Living through an extreme weather event can be traumatizing. The destruction, loss, and displacement people experience can sometimes lead to an array of mental health problems, from anxiety and feelings of helplessness to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal thoughts. 

WHO SUFFERS THE MOST?

People at the epicenter of these events suffer the greatest effects. Sixty-seven percent of individuals with direct exposure to the California Camp Fire of 2018 said they experienced trauma similar to PTSD, compared with 14 percent of those indirectly exposed. These effects can last for years, as reported by those who lived through Hurricane Katrina.

WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WHO HAVEN’T BEEN DIRECTLY AFFECTED?

Climate change is also having an impact on the mental health of people who haven’t personally experienced climate-related disasters: more than two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) have reported having at least some anxiety about climate change.

DOES AIR POLLUTION HAVE ANY IMPACT?

Yes, long-term exposure to air pollution has been associated with elevated anxiety levels and even an increase in suicides.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE LOSE THEIR LIVELIHOODS?

Climate change also can raise stress and anxiety levels for people robbed of their economic livelihoods — as when farmers can no longer grow their crops because shifting weather patterns have led to frequent drought or flooding. 

CURRENT NEWS

Youth Activists Experience a Mental Toll From the Climate Crisis

By Bloomberg News 08/22/23
“I think so many of us have had to forfeit our youth because we feel an obligation to do this. A lot of us have missed out on things that others have had because we've…
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Air Pollution Can Increase Risk Of Dementia, Study Suggests

By Molly Bohannon 08/14/23
People living in parts of the United States with high levels of air pollution—especially in areas where pollution stems from agriculture and wildfires—have a greater risk of developing dementia, a study released Monday found, the…
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Heat Singes the Mind, Not Just the Body

By Apoorva Mandavilli 08/10/23
If you find that the blistering, unrelenting heat is making you anxious and irritable, even depressed, it’s not all in your head. Soaring temperatures can damage not just the body but also the mind.
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Heat Waves Impact Your Mental Health, Too. Here’s How.

By Jillian Wilson 08/01/23
Hot weather can mess with your mind. According to a study published in 2022 in JAMA Psychiatry, mental health emergencies are exacerbated in hot weather; emergency rooms see a higher number of visits for anxiety,…
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Portland metro report finds climate change impacts on mental health

By Michaela Bourgeois and Brandon Thompson 08/01/23
A new report from Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties found that extreme weather has been negatively impacting Oregonian’s mental health. According to the Regional Climate and Health Monitoring Report, during extreme weather, there has been…
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Climate Change Obsession Is a Real Mental Disorder

By Allysia Finley 07/30/23
The media wants you to know it’s hot outside. “ ‘Heat health emergency’: Nearly half the US at risk,” CNN proclaimed last week as temperatures climbed above 90 degrees in much of the country.
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Why extreme heat brings worse mental health — and what you can do about it.

By Rebecca Ruiz 07/28/23
A heat wave brings familiar collective grumbling. We make jokes about ice baths, grouse about sleepless nights, and trade tips about creative ways to cool down.
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The Effects of Climate Change on Mental Health

By Susan Trachman M.D. 07/24/23
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, last month was the hottest June on record. The world is in the midst of a punishing heat wave, and the temperature in Death Valley, California, could…
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Climate Change Is Upending Farmers’ Livelihoods — and Exacerbating a Mental Health Crisis

By Mélissa Godin 07/17/23
When Mike Rosmann, an Iowa farmer and psychologist, heard his phone ring on a spring morning in 2019, he knew he had to answer. In the previous four months, his state had experienced the wettest…
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How the Climate Crisis is Changing Mental Healthcare

By Ananya Pathak 07/13/23
Our mental health is directly related to our social position, values, and proximity to power—which all impact how we exist. Eco-anxiety, too, is influenced by our social positions and occurs after we become conscious of…
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Introduction and behavioral validation of the climate change distress and impairment scale

By Johanna Hepp and others 07/12/23
Governmental agencies and the medical and psychological professions are calling for a greater focus on the negative mental health effects of climate change (CC). As a first step, the field needs measures to distinguish affective/emotional…
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Understanding how climate change is impacting our health and wellbeing (and what you can do about it)

By Tess Terrible, Catherine Shen 07/11/23
Extreme heat can leave us feeling exhausted after doing the most basic activities of daily living like getting groceries or commuting to work. Low air quality can leave many with sore throats and runny eyes.
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KEY RESOURCES

Climate Change and Mental Health

11/16/22
Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. And a growing body of research suggests that climate change can worsen mental health and well-being.

Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance

03/01/17
“Things like depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, domestic abuse, all these things tend to go up in the aftermath of a natural disasters,” says psychologist Susan Clayton of the College of Wooster,…

MORE NEWS

The Brewing Storm of Climate Anxiety

07/06/23  
Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and wildfires — there’s no shortage of natural disasters these days. As the world continues to heat up, leaders worldwide are working to find long-lasting solutions for climate change. But most days,…
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Anxious about climate change? You’re not alone.

By Allie Volpe   07/02/23  
The effects of climate change are visceral and distressing: images of thick wildfire smoke blanketing cities, reports of deadly heat waves and record flooding. Over 1 billion people globally could be displaced by events brought…
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How to Help Teens Overcome Anxiety About Climate Change

By Tyralynn Frazier   06/26/23  
The solutions to climate change are self-evident. Opportunities for change within our systems, countries, and institutions have been clearly defined, and yet political forces stifle systemic climate action as well as individual agency. This inability…
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Climate Change Can Harm Mental Health of Older Adults

By Ambika Kandasamy   06/16/23  
Climate change is expected to increase the severity and frequency of wildfires and other environmental disasters in California and beyond. Wildfires, like the recent blazes in Canada that brought smoke to the Midwest and Northeast…
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How climate affects youth mental health

By Janelle Weaver   06/07/23  
Mental Health Awareness Month took place in May, and two NIEHS-funded scientists are not letting the important topic go unnoticed. Together, they are spearheading a project that delves into the mental health impacts of the…
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The bipartisan bill that could heal the mental health effects of climate change

By Lisa Reyes Mason   05/29/23  
Climate change affects every aspect of our lives. From heat waves that put our health at risk, to severe storms that damage our infrastructure and homes. From the stress of rising food insecurity to the…
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Heat Waves Can Be Deadly for Those With Mental Health Issues

By Aryn Baker   05/10/23  
A record-shattering heat wave is blasting its way through much of Asia this week, following hard on another that scorched Western Europe and Northwest Africa in late April. Both augur a long, hot summer for…
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Markey introduces bipartisan bill to improve climate-related mental health services

By Zack Budryk   05/04/23  
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced bipartisan legislation Thursday aimed at improving mental health services for the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.
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The Mental Toll of Climate Change

By Katherine Kornei   04/24/23  
Helping people navigate stress brought on by a relationship is standard practice for Megan Irving, a mental health therapist in Oregon. But, Irving and mental health professionals like her are seeing more clients suffering from…
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‘Passionate’ teen took his own life after feeling ‘helpless’ over climate crisis

By Lucy Williamson and Dominic Picksley   04/15/23  
A teenager’s worries over climate change and environmental issues ultimately caused him to take his own life, according to his heartbroken sister.
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Understanding the impact of climate change on mental health

04/01/23  
Our recent research funded by EPA found that warming temperatures from climate change could result in an annual increase of up to 1,660 additional suicide cases later this century in the U.S.
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How to turn climate anxiety into action

By Renee Lertzman   03/27/23  
It's normal to feel anxious or overwhelmed by climate change, says psychologist Renée Lertzman. Can we turn those feelings into something productive? In an affirming talk, Lertzman discusses the emotional effects of climate change and…
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Feeling anxious about climate change? Here are 5 tips to manage those feelings

By Julia Simon and Clare Marie Schneider   03/20/23  
Tens of thousands of Americans are already experiencing the climate crisis. They've lost their homes, their pets and their loved ones.
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The hidden toll of climate disasters

By Arielle Samuelson   03/09/23  
If you look around the news and social media, you’ll find that many discussions on climate change and mental health have focused on eco-anxiety, and the problem with doom-and-gloom rhetoric.
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Exposure to air pollution increases risk for anxiety or depression. What can you do?

By Karen Weintraub   02/06/23  
A growing body of evidence suggests that the air we breathe could be affecting our mental as well as our physical health.
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Water insecurity is stressing mental health

By Eileen Drage O'ReillyAlison Snyder   11/17/22  
Hundreds of millions of people around the world lack reliable access to safe water — an escalating crisis with a potentially profound impact on their mental health. Why it matters: Similar to food insecurity, water…
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Climate change’s impact on mental health is overlooked and misunderstood – here’s what can be done

By Sanae Okamoto and Nidhi Nagabhatla   11/08/22  
Heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods and hurricanes increasingly feature in people’s lives and are predicted to become more frequent and intense in the coming decades. These events are having a significant yet often overlooked psychological impact…
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A new campus offering: Climate anxiety therapy

By Ta ' Leah Van Sistine   09/12/22  
In early 2020, weeks before anxiety about another crisis roiled the globe, a small group of students gathered in a room at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for a counseling session on worry and grief…
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“It’s destroying me”: Storm after storm, climate change increases strain on Texans’ mental health

By Erin Douglas   09/08/22  
Tens of thousands of coastal Texas residents have survived repeated extreme weather events including Hurricane Harvey. For many, it has taken an emotional toll, and researchers warn that climate change could be “catastrophic” for our…
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Eco-anxiety: the psychological aftermath of the climate crisis

06/28/22  
Climate change is a reality and threatens the future of the Earth. This can cause psychological impacts on some people, a phenomenon which is known as eco-anxiety. Below, we review what it is, what causes…
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Young Activists Disrupt Bonn Climate Talks to Call for Plant Based Treaty

By Olivia Rosane   06/13/22  
A group of young activists believe the answer is a global shift towards plant-based diets, and they are not afraid to make their voices heard. The campaigners disrupted a meeting at the UN climate talks…
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For Gen Z, Climate Change Is a Heavy Emotional Burden

By Richard Schiffman   04/28/22  
People who have come of age in recent decades — millennials and members of Generation Z — have been exposed to a steady stream of alarming news about climate change and ecological destruction. And a…
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7 Ways to Manage Climate Anxiety

By Linnea Harris   04/17/22  
Many people are already experiencing the effects of climate change. Eighty-five percent the global population has endured weather events made worse by rising temperatures, and more than 40% are highly vulnerable to climate change based…
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‘I was enjoying a life that was ruining the world’: can therapy treat climate anxiety?

By Moya Sarner   04/12/22  
Pete Knapp, 36, who lives in London, has visited North Korea, travelled overland from Kenya to Cape Town, motorcycled through Japan and Cambodia and trekked by horse through China. Until a few years ago, “I…
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Climate Change Enters the Therapy Room

By Ellen Barry   02/10/22  
Something as simple as nuts. They came wrapped in plastic, often in layers of it, that she imagined leaving her house and traveling to a landfill, where it would remain through her lifetime and the…
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Doctors union warn climate change is damaging patient health

By Wendy Brooking   11/01/21  
A DOCTORS’ union has reminded world leaders of their “moral responsibility” to protect public health, warning that climate change is damaging patient health.
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PCPs face mounting responsibility to address health effects of climate change

By Maria Marabito   10/29/21  
Human influence has had an unequivocal impact on Earth’s climate, causing significant changes that threaten people’s security and physical and mental health, according to a landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
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The Coming Age of Climate Trauma

By Andrea Stanley   10/27/21  
Jess Mercer received a call from her stepmom, Annette, that morning, a little after 8 a.m. “We’re coming,” Annette said, her voice so unrecognizable it sounded foreign. Jess was at her apartment in Chico, Calif.,…
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Climate Change Threatens To Worsen Health Disparities In Hawaii

By Anita Hofschneider   10/22/21  
Diseases like diabetes and obesity aren’t the first thing that most people think of when considering the health impacts of climate change. But they’re among a myriad of illnesses expected to worsen as global temperatures…
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Climate change is bad for your health. And plans to boost economies may make it worse

By Nathan Rott   10/20/21  
It may seem obvious: Heat kills. Wildfires burn. Flooding drowns. But the sprawling health effects of a rapidly warming world can also be subtle. Heat sparks violence and disrupts sleep. Wildfire smoke can trigger respiratory…
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What no one is talking about in the wake of hurricanes and oil spills

By Brandon Tensley   10/07/21  
Often, the damage that extreme weather or an environmental disaster inflicts on communities works as a one-two punch. The first punch: the actual event -- an oil spill, a hurricane, a winter storm, the lethal…
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How to Soothe Climate Anxiety With Hope and Action

By Sarah Simon   07/19/21  
Over the past couple of weeks, it seems like climate disasters are happening everywhere we look. In the U.S. alone, a heat dome blazed in the Northwest, fires cropped up in California, New York City flooded,…
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How to cope with the existential dread of climate change

By Connie Chang   07/15/21  
California was a refuge I always intended to return to. I grew up in the Bay Area in the 1980s and ’90s, then decamped to the East Coast for decades. In the temperate California of…
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Climate change also has a mental health toll

By Cristina Corujo   07/11/21  
For Meg Keene, climate change is something that not only needs to be addressed but is also very difficult to cope with personally. "As someone with anxiety, I kind of try not to think too…
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Climate crisis inflicting huge ‘hidden costs’ on mental health

By Damian Carrington   05/26/21  
The climate crisis is damaging the mental health of hundreds of millions of people around the world but the huge costs are hidden, scientists have warned. Heatwaves are increasing rates of suicide, extreme weather such…
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Climate Anxiety Makes Good Sense

By Bill McKibben   05/05/21  
Even as we begin to emerge from the stress of the pandemic year, mental-health professionals are noting a steady uptick in a different form of anxiety—the worry over climate change and the future that it…
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Opinion: Mental health and climate change are intertwined. Here’s how.

By Wael Al-Delaimy   04/23/21  
Climate change, refugees and mental health: Why should we care? Climate change is scientifically documented beyond reasonable doubt, is getting worse, and is a threat to our existence as humans as well as our planet…
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The long-lasting mental health effects of wildfires

By Jane C. Hu   12/03/20  
In the wake of a fire, governments and newspapers count the damage: lives lost, acres of forest burned, homes and businesses destroyed. Those are the hard numbers, the data we have to measure the destruction.…
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Mounting Drumbeat Of Climate Disasters Threatens Mental Health

08/26/20  
The psychological toll of a drumbeat of climate change-fueled disasters, now compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, is mounting and the U.S. is unprepared. These are the findings of a project by the Center for Public…
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You’re Probably Suffering From ‘Eco-Anxiety’

By Hayley Smith   02/27/20  
Are our brains even wired to grapple with an existential crisis like climate change? ...
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Kristi E. White: Psychologists important role in the face of climate change

By Kristi E. White   02/21/20  
People are experiencing a loss of hope in the face of the climate crisis — but mental health professionals can help find healthy ways to move...
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Should ‘Eco-Anxiety’ Be Classified as a Mental Illness?

By Jordan Davidson   09/17/19  
As the climate crisis takes on more urgency, psychologists around the world are seeing an increase in the number of children sitting in their offices suffering from ‘eco-anxiety,’ which the American Psychological Association described as…
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I’m a Psychotherapist – Here’s What I’ve Learned From Listening to Children Talk About Climate Change

By Caroline Hickman   09/15/19  
Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilises. Already, studies have found that 45% of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional…
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How climate change affects your mental health

By Britt Wray   05/01/19  
"For all that's ever been said about climate change, we haven't heard nearly enough about the psychological impacts of living in a warming world," says science writer Britt Wray. In this quick talk, she explores…
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Eco-anxiety

By Maria Ojala   02/20/19  
We are in unprecedented territory when it comes to climate change. How young people choose to tackle this problem will be a major factor that sets the world on its future path.
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Climate Change’s Looming Mental Health Crisis

By Matt Simon   08/02/18  
For the Inuit of Labrador in Canada, climate disaster has already arrived. These indigenous people form an intense bond with their land, hunting for food and fur. “People like to go out on the land…
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