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The awareness and coverage of climate change is growing rapidly. A recent study of news oulets from nearly 60 countries revealed that climate change coverage has nearly doubled from 47,000 articles between 2016 and 2017, to 87,000 between 2020 and 2021.
There’s no doubt climate change awareness had a major impact on our society – but did you know it also has done so on our youth’s mental health?
How so? In a survey of 3,000 UK kids by Save the Children, 70% of respondents are concerned about the world they will inherit, while 60% of them also said that climate change and inequality is affecting child mental health.
This phenomenon isn’t new, and it has been a growing trend in recent years. In this article, we will go through what climate anxiety is, some related trends, as well as what you can do manage it and help out!
What is climate anxiety?
Climate anxiety (also known as eco-anxiety) is often described as regularly fearing or being distressed in the extreme changes in the planet’s climate system.
Climate anxiety is a growing concern, but it’s important to remember that we’re not alone. More and more people are talking about climate change and taking action to address it.
What are its symptoms?
Before we dive in, it is important to note that it is normal to feel concern for alarming headlines about climate change. However, eco-anxiety can result in other symptoms.
Some of these symptoms of climate anxiety may vary depending on the person, some symptoms may include sleeplessness, headache, loss of appetite, or even panic attacks. Having said this, let’s look at some research to further understand the phenomenon.
Climate anxiety research
Climate anxiety research is booming. It only started to be studied extensively in the 2000s. We’ll delve into some of those findings in this section to discover more about its trends.
How common is it in the UK?
Government surveys and other research
Relatively speaking, Britain tends to care quite a lot about the environment, as suggested by its consistently high ranking environmental performance metrics. But how widespread is it? UK Government surveys state that as of 2022, climate change was a concern for 74% of respondents, changing only slightly from 75% in 2021.
It’s pretty evident from this UK government survey data that climate anxiety is established and widespread in the UK. However, more comprehensive sources further suggest that some groups of people are more concerned about the environment, and more likely to experience climate anxiety than others.
Studies suggest that young people are more worried about climate change. A joint survey made by YouGov and Woodland Trust found that 31% of people aged between 16 and 24 were ‘very concerned’ about climate change, compared to 18% of people aged 65 and over. Trends and questions vary, but generally, young people are more likely to be affected by climate anxiety.
Why is this all important?
There’s a silver lining!
Climate anxiety is a growing concern, but there’s good news: it’s a powerful motivator for climate action.
Studies have shown that climate anxiety is a strong driver for climate action, especially among the youth. A 2022 study found that people who are more worried about climate change take more action to address it, such as taking small steps to reduce their carbon footprint in everyday life, or even joining initiatives or related activism.
How to manage climate anxiety
There are many ways to cope with climate anxiety, and you’re not alone. Believe it or not, there’s actually a lot of dialogue and investment on this matter.
Think about joining groups – to talk about it
If you experience climate anxiety, it can help to join groups sharing the same issue. Talking about climate anxiety can help you feel less alone and more hopeful.
Take a break from the headlines once in a while
One way to manage climate anxiety is to take action to address climate change. It’s a great thing to be engaged with climate change, however it’s important to take breaks from the news, especially if it’s making you anxious – it can make you feel down. Consider focusing on things you can control.
In the context of climate anxiety, concentrating on a limited achievable set of causes can aid in managing your overall stress levels, maintaining your own balance and motivation.
Consider joining an environmental initiative
It’s only normal to feel concern for the environment at times, that’s why focusing on what you can control and taking part in an environmental initiative can have a positive impact. At Bywaters, we organise regular river and beach cleans to help tackle local pollution and keep London clean. They are open to everyone. If you live in London and would like to take part in a local initiative that makes a difference with an informed group of sustainability experts, contact us today to find out more!