The Impact of Climate Change on Our Mental Health

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Climate change has a clear impact on our mental health and well-being. If you want to learn more, read on.


The Impact of Climate Change on Our Mental Health 1

Climate change is affecting not only our planet’s ecosystems but also our physical and mental health. The more immediate effects of these changes on the mind are most evident after natural disasters. For example, trauma, shock, post-traumatic stress disorder, feelings of abandonment, anxiety and depression. These can lead to suicidal ideation and risky behaviors (APA, 2021).

Indeed, weather changes are no longer just a hidden and imminent threat, but an established and disruptive reality with dire predictions for our future.

“The humanitarian symptoms of climate change are certain and potentially irreversible, affecting the health of populations around the world today” (Watts et al., 2017). In fact, it is estimated that between 2030 and 2050, deaths due to the effects of climate change will increase by 250,000 per year.

How does climate change affect our mental health?

Some people are more vulnerable than others to the impact of climate change on our mental health. These include children, the chronically ill, the elderly, people with cognitive impairments, pregnant women and people with psychopathological disorders.

The impacts of climate change can be direct or indirect and short or long-term. Their consequences can also be delayed and include disorders such as post-traumatic stress. they can even be passed on to subsequent generations (Cianconi, Betrò, & Janiri, 2020).

A review of 120 studies investigating extreme weather events such as temperature, humidity, drought, wildfires and floods concluded that their possible consequences on mental health are as follows:

Psychological disorders.

  • Worsening of mental health in people with certain psychopathologies.
  • Increase in psychiatric hospitalizations.
  • Increased suicide rates.

The authors of this paper conclude that climate change may affect mental health not only through direct exposure to traumatic climate-related events, but also indirectly. For example, through poverty, unemployment and homelessness.

Immediate impacts
According to one report, 25-50 percent of victims of a weather disaster are at risk of adverse mental health effects. Furthermore, the same report claims that the mental health of more than 54 percent of adults and 45 percent of children is seriously threatened. In fact, after these events, distress responses have been observed, including

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Increased substance use.
  • Depression.

While these reactions tend to be temporary, in many cases they can be permanent. This is more evident in people who do not seek help and turn their backs on their feelings to hide their trauma. In these cases, the impact on mental health is more significant.

Eco-anxiety, environmental anguish, ecological grief and solastalgia are some concepts that arise from the impact of environmental factors on mental health.
Eco-anxiety, environmental anguish, ecological grief and solastalgia are some concepts that arise from the impact of environmental factors on mental health.

Gradual effects

Our mental health suffers not only because of natural disasters, but also because of the gradual changes our planet is undergoing. These eventually start to affect people’s health.

One study found that rising temperatures are associated with an increased risk of death due to fatigue, assault, injury and suicide. Other research has suggested a link between extreme heat and increased irritability, aggression and even violence.

Indeed, cities and regions with higher temperatures tend to experience more violent crime than colder regions. This is true even after accounting for sociocultural factors such as age, race, poverty and culture (Plante and Anderson, 2017).

Accordingly, crime and aggression rates tend to increase during hot summer months, suggesting a link between aggressive behaviors and temperatures (Haertzen et al.; Cohn et al., 2004).

The impact of climate change on our mental health can take various forms. Research suggests that drought, flooding, sea level rises, increases in ambient temperature and other consequences of climate change can lead to increased psychological distress through many mediators. For example, economic stress, stress, reduced social capital and traumatic events, among other causes.

What can be done?
At the state level, adequate treatment facilities can be built to manage mental health problems. In addition, promoting positive mental health is another way to reduce psychological distress caused by climate change (Padhy et al., 2015).

On a personal level, it is a good idea to increase your level of resilience and prepare for extreme weather events according to the APA. This can help you better manage your ongoing emotional responses to climate change threats. You may want to include the following:

  • Make emergency plans for your home.
  • Prepare an emergency kit.
  • Build strong social networks to help with disaster planning and share resources.

Eco-friendly lifestyle changes can help reduce the impact of environmental changes by improving psychological health in the face of climate change. One study found that pro-environmental actions predicted higher levels of life satisfaction and greater subjective well-being. Seemingly beneficial activities included

  • Grow your own food.
  • Consume organic food.
  • Talk to children about environmental issues.
  • Avoid excessive packaging in your shopping.

Finally, the impact of climate change on life on the planet affects not only ecosystems and physical health, but also our mental functioning. Indeed, environmental change can greatly affect the way we experience our existence.


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