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Climate anxiety: 75% of young people worldwide find the future ‘scary’

A global study conducted in ten countries around the world reveals that 45% of young people suffer from eco-anxiety. Governments’ inaction on climate issues is frequently cited as promoting this distress.

The study compiles several surveys of 10,000 children and youth (16 to 25 years old) in 10 countries around the world (Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, United Kingdom and the United States).

When asked how they see the future, 75% of all young people surveyed described it as “frightening.”

20211229 Climate Anxiety
Nearly half of young people surveyed worldwide (45%) report that climate-related anxiety and distress affect their daily lives. Image: Shutterstock/Alex_Maryna

More than half of the people surveyed said they felt “afraid,” “sad,” “anxious,” “angry,” “powerless” or “helpless”… A percentage that rises to 81% in southern countries such as Portugal and even to 92% in the Philippines.

Nearly half of young people surveyed worldwide (45%) say that climate-related anxiety and distress affect their daily lives. Of these young people, 64% believe that their governments are “not doing enough” to avoid a climate catastrophe.

‘I grew up being afraid of drowning in my own bedroom’

While 55% think that they won’t have access to the same opportunities that [their] parents had” to take action for the climate, 65% believe that governments are “failing young people,” with 58% going so far as to call this inaction a “betrayal” for future generations.

“I grew up being afraid of drowning in my own bedroom. Society tells me that this anxiety is an irrational fear that needs to be overcome — one that meditation and healthy coping mechanisms will ‘fix.’ At its root, our climate anxiety comes from this deep-set feeling of betrayal because of government inaction. To truly address our growing climate anxiety, we need justice,” said 23-year-old Mitzi Tan of the Philippines.

“Our children’s anxiety is a completely rational reaction given the inadequate responses to climate change they are seeing from governments… This study makes an important contribution to these legal arguments, framing climate anxiety and distress as a ‘moral injury,'” said Caroline Hickman, of the University of Bath, UK, Climate Psychology Alliance and co-lead author on the study.

Young people mobilizing for climate action, across the planet

“We must consider the futures of young people, listen to their voices and place them at the center of decision making. By bringing together all generations, we can demand that governments engage in the urgent action on climate change we so desperately need,” notes her colleague Liz Marks.

All over the world, young people are mobilizing for the climate. At the end of the first week of COP26, which took place in November in the city of Glasgow, thousands of young people took to the streets around the world, determined to make their voices heard and demand climate justice.

“When I was 16… I went through phases of feeling utterly helpless in face of this immense problem, and then would launch myself into organizing protests or changing things within my school… It’s so damaging to put this problem on the shoulders of young people — hope needs to come instead from palpable structural action,” said Beth Irving, a 19-year-old climate activist who was behind the Cardiff student strikes. JB


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