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3/4 of Young People Fear for the Future, 4 in 10 Fear Having Children, Global Survey Finds

mental health

This story includes details on the impacts of climate change that may be difficult for some readers. If you are feeling overwhelmed by this crisis situation here is a list of resources on how to cope with fears and feelings about the scope and pace of the climate crisis.

A recent global survey on young people’s attitudes toward the climate crisis has shown that 75% agree that “the future is frightening.”

The survey—recently pre-published by The Lancet Planetary Health pending peer review—has been called “the biggest scientific study yet on climate anxiety and young people,” writes The Guardian. The research, funded by Avaaz, involved roughly 10,000 young people aged 16 to 25 living in Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Portugal, the UK, and the United States. 

The paper states that 60% of survey participants felt betrayed by their government, nearly 50% said anxiety or distress related to the climate crisis was impairing their ability to function day-to-day, and 40% were afraid to have children because of the climate crisis.

“I meet lot of young girls who ask whether it’s still OK to have children,” said Luisa Neubauer, a 25-year-old climate activist from Germany. “It’s a simple question, yet it tells so much about the climate reality we are living in.”

Neubauer added that an “appropriate” response to the findings of the study “would be [for] governments to start acting like they promised they would.”

The new data on how the climate crisis is affecting the mental health of young people comes a few short weeks after UNICEF released a report finding that one billion children are even now at “extreme risk” for the impacts of our disintegrating global climate, The Guardian notes.

“This study paints a horrific picture of widespread climate anxiety in our children and young people,” said co-author Caroline Hickman, teaching fellow at the University of Bath. The research suggests “for the first time that high levels of psychological distress in youth is linked to government inaction,” she added.

“Our children’s anxiety is a completely rational reaction given the inadequate responses to climate change they are seeing from governments,” Hickman told The Guardian. “What more do governments need to hear to take action?”

The Lancet research arrives alongside another study, conducted by the Pew Research Center, that surveyed nearly 20,000 people in 17 countries on their attitudes to the climate crisis. 

Pew found that “nearly three-quarters of residents of countries with some of the world’s most advanced economies worry that climate change will one day create suffering in their own lives,” the Washington Post writes.

Compared to a similar poll conducted six years ago, German citizens showed the greatest increase in climate concern, with “the share of the population ‘very concerned’ about the personal impact of climate change increasing by 19 percentage points to 37% between 2015 and 2021.”

On the other hand, “in a small number of countries, including Japan and to a lesser degree in the United States, concern about the personal harm caused by climate change declined between 2015 and 2021.”

The Post notes, however, that the survey was conducted in the spring, before the series of traumatic extreme weather events that exploded across the world this past summer.