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Eco‐anxiety: How thinking about climate change‐related environmental decline is affecting our mental health



You would be hard-pressed in 2019 not to be aware of the worldwide social movement and protests relating to climate change. In September this year, millions of school children and adults around the world took to the street demanding urgent action in response to esca- lating concerns relating to the environment. Further- more, the United Nations Climate Summit in New York described climate change as the defining issue of our time and the Australian Medical Association recently declared climate change as a health emergency following the lead of many international medical bod- ies. Clearly, our climate is changing; we are experienc- ing weather events that are more frequent and intense, and last longer (Jackman et al. 2018). As a result, all health professionals have an important role to play in this regard in the future.
Eco-anxiety: How thinking about climate
change-related environmental decline is affecting
our mental health
You would be hard-pressed in 2019 not to be aware of
the worldwide social movement and protests relating to
climate change. In September this year, millions of
school children and adults around the world took to
the street demanding urgent action in response to esca-
lating concerns relating to the environment. Further-
more, the United Nations Climate Summit in New
York described climate change as the defining issue of
our time and the Australian Medical Association
recently declared climate change as a health emergency
following the lead of many international medical bod-
ies. Clearly, our climate is changing; we are experienc-
ing weather events that are more frequent and intense,
and last longer (Jackman et al. 2018). As a result, all
health professionals have an important role to play in
this regard in the future.
Although the issue of climate change usually brings
thoughts of environmental impact and physical health
concerns to our consciousness, climate change also
affects people’s mental health. We have known of the
impact of climate change-induced weather events and
natural disasters on our mental health for some time
now; these events cause issues including sleep disor-
ders, stress, anxiety, depression, and the development
of posttraumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation
(Warsini et al. 2014). There is less research, however,
on the mental and emotional consequences caused by
the awareness of the slow and gradual changes in the
environment (Pihkala 2018), a direct result of climate
change. We are not as aware of the longer-term
impacts, such as the effect of climate change on agri-
culture and the liveability of towns and cities, and the
outcome on our mental health (Clayton et al. 2017).
Anyone who lives in a rural area of Australia will be
aware of the current impact of the unprecedented
weather events causing the current drought, which in
turn, has led to severe degradation of the rural envi-
ronment. Just ask a farmer in New South Wales what
their farm looks like at this present time. Pictures of
desolate, wind-swept paddocks, and dust storms come
to mind as well as fears of fires as the remaining
vegetation turns crisp. These conditions cause consider-
able distress to many people, not only farmers as entire
communities feel the impact of climate change.
But why are we experiencing negative emotional
and mental states as a result of climate change
impacts? This could be explained by the biophilia
hypothesis (Wilson 1984), which posits that humans
have an innate connection with the natural world and
derive psychological and well-being benefits from this
affiliation. However, climate change-related adverse
environmental impacts are disrupting this connection
resulting in feelings of loss due to changes to person-
ally significant places (e.g. one’s home, community, nat-
ural habitats, and precious ecosystems), a phenomenon
known as ‘ecological grief’ (Cunsolo & Ellis 2018).
Knowing about the changing environmental condi-
tions and the associated mental distress this causes and
that these problems will get worse with rising tempera-
tures is manifested as eco-anxiety (Clayton et al. 2017),
or solastalgia (Albrecht 2005), or if you prefer, eco-
angst (Goleman 2009). Put simply, eco-anxiety is a
specific form of anxiety relating to stress or distress
caused by environmental changes and our knowledge
of them. There is no specific diagnosis of ‘Eco-anxiety’.
Self-reported presentations may include panic attacks,
insomnia, obsessive thinking, and/or appetite changes
caused by environmental concerns (Castelloe 2018).
As a result of eco-anxiety, people are becoming anx-
ious about their future (Pihkala 2018) and the future of
the planet as we currently know it. As an outcome of
developing awareness of the impact of climate change
on the environment, some people are spurred to act,
such as those we mentioned earlier who protested
recently, while others become overwhelmed and anx-
ious; while the anxiety for some people is so intense,
they become paralysed and cannot act. This is what
Albrecht (2011) calls eco-paralysis where people
become so distressed by the issue; they are unable to
act, sometimes misinterpreted as apathy.
Our climate and our environment are changing.
Mental health nurses and other mental health
©2019 Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Inc.
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing (2019) 28, 1233–1234 doi: 10.1111/inm.12673
professionals need to take a leading role in reducing
and responding to the distress related to climate
change. We have an opportunity to minimize the nega-
tive impacts of climate change on mental health
through our work with individuals, families, and com-
munities. We are trained to provide support for devel-
oping active coping skills and self-efficacy as well as
promoting hope and social connectedness, as climate
change adaptation strategies, to combat psychological
distress. We should champion evidence-based climate-
related mental health communication to build commu-
nity resilience, share our expertise on environmental
influences on mental health through research and pol-
icy briefings at local, state, and federal level, and sup-
port climate solutions. We must also take a leading role
in helping to ease the burden of our personal impact
and of our services on the environment by modelling
pro-environmental behaviours, such as reducing waste,
increasing reuse and recycling, and by raising public
awareness of climate mitigation strategies (e.g. clean
energy, water resilience).
We realize that there is no single solution for this
wicked problem of climate anxiety. However, we can
address it through our collective action at individual,
community, and more broadly, at a national and global
level. This will indeed require strong leadership and
political will.
Kim Usher
, Joanne Durkin
and Navjot Bhullar
School of Health, and
School of Psychology,
University of New England, Armidale, New South
Wales, Australia
Albrecht, G. (2005). Solastalgia: A new concept in human health
and identity. PAN: Philosophy, Activism, Nature,3,4155.
Albrecht, G. (2011). Chronic environmental change:
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Cunsolo, A. & Ellis, N. R. (2018). Ecological grief as a
mental health response to climate change-related loss.
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Goleman, D. (2009). The age of eco-angst. The New York
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Jackman, K. P., Uznanski, W., McDermott-Levy, R. & Cook,
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(2014). The psychosocial impact of natural disasters among
adult survivors: An integrative review. Issues in Mental
Health Nursing,35, 420436.
Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge: Harvard University
©2019 Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Inc.
... High school students and their peers are especially conscious of climate change's impact on their future compared to previous generations. Eco-stress caused by climate change is just beginning to be studied (Usher et al., 2018), and more research is needed both to understand this phenomenon and to provide young people with an outlet to express their concerns. Taking up this call, this paper presents a citizen science approach that, combining emerging research in the humanities on climate fiction with insights on far-future scenario development from management sciences, seeks to empower high school students to leverage their far-future climate perspectives. ...
... The present study presents several noteworthy conclusions. First, it confirms previous research indicating that young people aged 14 to 18 harbor significantly negative feelings regarding climate change (e.g., Usher et al., 2018;Hickman et al., 2021). Interestingly, this finding may be somewhat surprising considering the intentional inclusion of insights and prompts in the introductory presentation, flash fiction writing exercise, and short story development template that encouraged students to consider potentially positive aspects of climate change. ...
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This research paper presents an innovative citizen science approach that empowers high school students to express their concerns about climate change and envision far-future scenarios. By combining climate fiction research from the humanities with insights from far-future scenario development in the management sciences, the study explores the potential of involving citizens in speculative fiction creation. The study, conducted with 152 Danish high school students, investigates the assumption that citizen engagement in narrative building can enhance climate change speculation, including the envisioning of desirable futures and identification of potential pitfalls. The findings reveal that the submitted stories predominantly reflect negative expectations of the future, employing familiar dystopian storytelling techniques. Taken together, the stories underscore the necessity of incumbent actors, such as policy makers and business leaders, acknowledging the far-future scenarios presented. The stories highlight the need for societal cooperation and mutual understanding as crucial foundations for effective technological and policy interventions in addressing climate change. This research underscores the significance of providing young individuals with a platform to articulate their climate concerns and offers insights into leveraging citizen perspectives for shaping a sustainable future.
... Dietitians and nutrition professionals have a critical role in promoting actions that supporting sustainable and resilient food and health systems [5][6][7]. The planetary crisis and other global changes, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have exposed systemic weaknesses, inequalities and adaptive challenges [2,5,8], and it is likely that nutrition and health professionals mirror broader societal anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, confusion, displaced blame and subsequent inaction [9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]. There are strong calls to action for dietitians and nutrition professionals to lead change and be 'future-focussed' [17][18][19]. ...
... However, agency -or positive self-belief -is an important starting point for positive change. There are barriers to progress, including political, economic or human factors outweighing planetary concerns, displaced blame, inequities, insecurities and climate-anxiety and despair [9,[11][12][13][14], but we recognise action is a key antidote to despair. With environmental concerns, there is a well-known attitude-behaviour gap between some people's environmental beliefs and their actions [10,62]. ...
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Background Earth and all its inhabitants are threatened by a planetary crisis; including climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss and pollution. Dietitians and nutrition professionals have a responsibility to lead transformational change in contemporary food and health systems to help mitigate this crisis. The study aims to develop a conceptual framework to support dietitians towards personal, population and planetary health. Methods Non‐empirical methods were used by the co‐researchers to explore and explain the application of an international framework ‘Next‐Generation Solutions to Address Adaptive Challenges in Dietetics Practice: The I + PSE Conceptual Framework for Action’. Results A non‐sequential pathway guide to personal, population and planetary health for nutrition professionals was developed including several key guiding principles of Agency, Action, Ascension, Alignment, Alliance and Allyship, and Advocacy and Activism. Each guiding principle features descriptors and descriptions to enhance dietitian and nutrition professional Agency (i.e. vision, self‐belief, confidence, strength and responsibility), Action (i.e. start, shift, translate, achieve and commit), Ascension (i.e. build, overcome, manage, challenge and progress), Alignment (i.e. leadership, transparency, diplomacy, values and systems), Alliance and Allyship (i.e. support, collaborate, represent, community and citizenship) and Advocacy and Activism (i.e. disrupt, co‐design, transform, empower and urgency). The framework and its descriptors support enhanced understanding and are modifiable and flexible in their application to guide the participation of dietitians and nutrition professionals in transformational change in personal, population and planetary health. This guide acknowledges that First Nations knowledge and customs are important to current and future work within this field. Conclusions Alongside the international body of work progressing in this field, this framework and visual guide will support dietitians and nutrition professionals to achieve urgent, transformational change in personal, population and planetary health.
... Whilst impacts to physical health have historically been the focus of academic inquiry, climate change also impacts mental health both directly, from exposure to climatic hazards, and via numerous indirect pathways including loss of livelihood, displacement and forced migration, and armed conflict and interpersonal violence [19,20]. These risk factors can lead to the onset of mental health conditions and adverse psychosocial outcomes such as depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicidal actions, or have a compounding effect for those already living with these conditions [21]. Moreover, these effects are experienced disproportionately by the most disadvantaged members of society including people with pre-existing chronic disease(s) ...
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The impact of climate change on reproductive decision-making is becoming a significant issue, with anecdotal evidence indicating a growing number of people factoring their concerns about climate change into their childbearing plans. Although empirical research has explored climate change and its relationship to mental health, as well as the motivations behind reproductive decision-making independently, a gap in the literature remains that bridges these topics at their nexus. This review endeavours to fill this gap by synthesising the available evidence connecting climate change-related concerns with reproductive decision-making and exploring the reasons and motivations behind this relationship. A systematic review using six databases was conducted to identify relevant literature. Included studies reported quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods data related to: (1) climate change, (2) mental health and wellbeing concerns, and (3) reproductive decision-making. Findings were synthesised narratively using a parallel-results convergent synthesis design and the quality of studies was appraised using three validated assessment tools. Four hundred and forty-six documents were screened using pre-defined inclusion criteria, resulting in the inclusion of thirteen studies. The studies were conducted between 2012 and 2022 primarily in Global North countries (e.g., USA, Canada, New Zealand, and European countries). Climate change concerns were typically associated with less positive attitudes towards reproduction and a desire and/or intent for fewer children or none at all. Four themes explaining this relationship were identified: uncertainty about the future of an unborn child, environmentalist views centred on overpopulation and overconsumption, meeting family subsistence needs, and environmental and political sentiments. The current evidence reveals a complex relationship between climate change concerns and reproductive decision-making, grounded in ethical, environmental, livelihood, and political considerations. Further research is required to better understand and address this issue with an intercultural approach, particularly among many highly affected Global South populations, to ensure comparability and generalisable results.
... Furthermore, extreme weather events, such as floods, heavy precipitation, droughts, and storms, can result not only in direct physical effects, but also in mental health impacts, which have often been underestimated so far (Watts et al. 2019). Climate change impacts may also lead to indirect psychological effects even without directly experiencing an extreme event, which can cause negative emotions and symptoms such as panic attacks, loss of appetite, obsessive thinking, and insomnia (Usher et al. 2019;Stanley et al. 2021). ...
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Given the current levels of pollution and global warming concerns, consumers started to be more and more involved with environmental issues, becoming more anxious regarding the state of natural resource depletion. Thus, this research aims to examine the concept of eco-anxiety among consumers who are aware of the repercussions of the current environmental complexities, analysing how or to what extent it affects them, bearing in mind that individuals may tend to escape from stressful environmental issues. A conceptual model will be tested using data from consumers of two countries representing very different regions and socioeconomic contexts: India and Italy. An online self-administered questionnaire was distributed in India and Italy between February and March 2022. Employing partial least squares structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM), a sample of 557 individuals was collected (316 from India; 241 from Italy). The study examined the measurement model to assess validity and reliability, as well as the structural model to test the hypotheses. The results indicate that consumers of India and Italy tend to avoid thinking about environmental crises trying to normalise their plight. As observed, eco-anxiety positively influences emotional disso-nance, and escapism is positively related to this construct, but intentions to buy green products are found to be insignificant. Practical implications were drawn for policy-makers and practitioners, indicating different orientations according to the region.
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Introduction Human actions have influenced climate changes around the globe, causing extreme weather phenomena and impacting communities worldwide. Climate change has caused, directly or indirectly, health effects such as injury and physical injuries, which impact morbidity and mortality. Similarly, there is evidence that exposure to climatic catastrophes has serious repercussions on psychological well-being, and rising temperatures and drought have detrimental effects on mental health. Despite the recent effort of researchers to develop specific instruments to assess the effects of climate change on mental health, the evidence on measures of its impact is still scarce, and the constructs are heterogeneous. The aim of this scoping review is to describe the instruments developed and validated to assess the impact of mental health related to climate change. Methods and analysis This review is registered at Open Science Framework ( ). This scoping review will follow the reporting elements chosen for systematic review and meta-analysis (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses). We proposed a PO question, as it places no restrictions on the participants (P), and the outcome (O) are measurement instruments on mental health related to climate change. A search will be conducted in different databases (PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, PsycINFO). We will use an open-source artificial intelligence screening tool (ASReview LAB) for the title and abstract review. The full-text review will be performed by three researchers. If there is a disagreement between two independent reviewers, a third reviewer will take the final decision. We will use the COnsensus-based Standards for the selection of health Measurement INstruments tool to assess the risk of bias for each included study. The review will be conducted starting in September 2023. Ethics and dissemination The planned scoping review does not require ethical approval since it will not involve an ethical risk to the participants. The results obtained from this study will be presented at conferences, congresses and scientific publications.
Earth is endowed with sufficient reserves to meet all of our needs. It is the fact that all living organisms use the planet's resources to the extent that they require them. Humans, on the other hand, are the only creatures on the planet who enjoy and even exploit resources beyond their necessity. To be more precise, due to population surge, rapid industrialization, and urbanization, there is a need to meet both the demands and luxuries. The Earth's species are dependent on the ecosystem service functions which are driven by climate stability. Climate-triggered health illnesses are currently showing new trends and are expected to increase in the future if the current climate disturbances persist. In brief, climate instability (warming or cooling) undeniably provides suitable ground for vector and zoonotic life cycles. Climate-related morbidity and mortality are developing public health concerns that, if not addressed properly, will have serious corollaries. This chapter summarizes the various factors responsible for climate variability-induced health impacts.
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Depuis de nombreuses années, les changements climatiques ont bouleversé de multiples aspects dans nos sociétés, dont des préoccupations sérieuses impactant la santé mentale des individus. Notre recherche a été menée dans le but d’étoffer les données suisses quant à l’impact de l’éco-anxiété sur les différentes générations ainsi qu’au travers des genres, puis, le rôle que la résilience peut jouer sur l’éco-anxiété. 244 participant-e-s ont donc complètement répondu à un questionnaire en ligne comprenant 5 échelles, dont l’échelle d’anxiété climatique, d’anxiété, de stress perçu, des stratégies de coping et de résilience. Ils-elles ont également répondu à quelques questions d’ordre socio-démographiques. De ce fait le niveau d’éco-anxiété, ainsi que celui des autres échelles, pouvaient être mesurés en fonction de l’âge et du genre notamment. Nos résultats démontrent que le niveau d’éco-anxiété n’est significativement pas plus élevé chez les jeunes âgés de 18 à 25 ans que chez les adultes âgés de 26 à 65 ans et que chez les personnes âgées de plus de 65 ans. De plus, le niveau d’éco-anxiété n’est significativement pas plus élevé chez les femmes que chez les hommes. Cependant, nous avons pu observer qu’il existait une relation négative significative entre le niveau de résilience et le niveau d’éco-anxiété chez les participant-e-s, peu importe l’âge et le genre. En conclusion, notre étude révèle que la résilience joue un rôle significatif dans l’anxiété climatique, ce qui est important de considérer puisque celle-ci peut présenter une piste auprès des individus se décrivant comme éco-anxieux.
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Climate change (CC) has a significant impact on human health, resulting in both physical and mental illnesses. Eco-anxiety—the excessive and pervasive fear about the consequences of CC—is the most studied psychoterratic state. This study presents the validation of Italian versions of Hogg’s Eco-Anxiety Scale (HEAS) and the Eco-Paralysis Scale. It also investigates the effects of worry on eco-anxiety and eco-paralysis. The study was conducted on 150 Italian individuals who responded to the two scales and to other questionnaires to make comparisons with the two above. Internal consistency and factorial structure were assessed through Cronbach’s alpha, Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Exploratory Factor Analysis. A median regression was used to assess the association between the EPS and the HEAS and Climate Change Worry Scale (CCWS) and their interaction. HEAS and EPS showed good psychometric properties: HEAS resulted in good internal consistency (Cronbach’s α = 0.986), and the Eco-Paralysis scale had good test-retest reliability (r = 0.988). In both cases, a one-factor structure was suggested to be retained. The interaction terms between HEAS and CCWS (β = −0.02; 95% CI: −0.03, −0.01; p < 0.001) and between HEAS and education (β = −0.05; 95% CI: −0.08, −0.02; p < 0.001) were significant. Therefore, the feeling of worry seems to act as a moderator between climate change anxiety and eco-paralysis since it may appear to influence individuals and their ability to transform anxiety into action. Education plays a role in reducing the risk of Eco-Paralysis in subjects affected by climate change anxiety. Thus, data suggest that working on reinforcing a more cognitive concern might result in more problem-solving-focused strategies to face climate change anxiety and eco-paralysis.
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Obiettivo principale del presente studio è identificare le variabili connesse alla sindrome di burnout nel professionista della salute mentale, nello specifico dello psicoterapeuta attraverso una revisione sistematica, condotta secondo le linee guida PRISMA (Page et al., 2021), con un arco temporale che va dal 2012 a gennaio 2023. La selezione finale ha portato all'inclusione di 20 articoli trovati sui database Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, SocINDEX con Full Text, Education research Complete, APA PsycArticles (EBSCO); PubMed e Scopus. Le variabili "empatia" e "risonanza corporea" sono risultate fondamentali per stabilire una mi-gliore qualità della relazione terapeutica, risultato in linea con i dati già ottenuti dalla ricerca sulla psicoterapia della Gestalt (Spagnuolo Lobb et al., 2022a). Un obiettivo comune per i cli-nici potrebbe essere quello di potenziare le attività di co-visione e supervisione clinica, soste-nendo la risonanza estetica e di campo (Spagnuolo Lobb et al., 2022b).
This article addresses the problem of “eco‐anxiety” by integrating results from numerous fields of inquiry. Although climate change may cause direct psychological and existential impacts, vast numbers of people already experience indirect impacts in the form of depression, socio‐ethical paralysis, and loss of well‐being. This is not always evident, because people have developed psychological and social defenses in response, including “socially constructed silence.” I argue that this situation causes the need to frame climate change narratives as emphasizing hope in the midst of tragedy. Framing the situation simply as a threat or a possibility does not work. Religious communities and the use of methods which include spirituality have an important role in enabling people to process their deep emotions and existential questions. I draw also from my experiences from Finland in enabling cooperation between natural scientists and theologians in order to address climate issues.
Climate change is increasingly understood to impact mental health through multiple pathways of risk, including intense feelings of grief as people suffer climate-related losses to valued species, ecosystems and landscapes. Despite growing research interest, ecologically driven grief, or 'ecological grief', remains an underdeveloped area of inquiry. We argue that grief is a natural and legitimate response to ecological loss, and one that may become more common as climate impacts worsen. Drawing upon our own research in Northern Canada and the Australian Wheatbelt, combined with a synthesis of the literature, we offer future research directions for the study of ecological grief.
The aim of this review was to identify the psychosocial impact of natural disasters on adult (over the age of 18 years) survivors. Databases searched included PsycInfo, CINAHL, Proquest, Ovid SP, Scopus, and Science Direct. The search was limited to articles written in English and published between 2002 and 2012. A total of 1,642 abstracts and articles were obtained during the first search; 39 articles were retained. The results indicate that PTSD is the most-studied psychosocial impact after a disaster. Mental health nurses have a significant role to play in supporting survivors and can assist with the development of resilience in community members.
Humans are now by far the most powerful change agent on the planet, and their impacts are fundamentally transforming the face of the physical landscape of the earth, altering natural patterns and rhythms, and, now, warming its climate. Under the influence of increasing anthropogenic environmental pressures, I describe earth-related physical and mental health impacts due to environmental and climate change. In what follows, I shall focus on earth-related mental health issues or what I call ‘psychoterratic’ impacts that arise from negatively felt and perceived environmental change. A typology of emergent psychoterratic syndromes and conditions is presented to assist in the understanding of and possible responses to chronic environmental change. KeywordsPsychoterratic-Solastalgia-Nostalgia-Phenology
Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance
  • S Clayton
  • C M Manning
  • K Krygsman
  • M Speiser
Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Krygsman, K. & Speiser, M. (2017). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance. Washington: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica. Available from:
Climate change: preparing the nurses of the future
  • Jackman K. P.
Climate Change and Human Well‐being
  • G. Albrecht