How Climate Change Can Affect Your Mental Health
Climate change can most definitely impact you physically through flooding, droughts, and extreme weather events. But did you know that it can also affect you mentally? In fact, climate change can actually impact your mental health in more ways than you may think possible. Read on to find out how climate change can affect your mental health and what you can do to become more resilient!
Climate Change and Your Mental Health
Since climate change is uncertain, many people may feel hopeless, leading to more stress and anxiety. There are actually some fairly new concepts that have been created to define different types of anxiety related to climate change and the environment. Solastalgia, for example, refers to the inability to find solace in a familiar landscape due to environmental degradation, and eco-anxiety refers to anxiety about current and future harm to the environment as a result of climate change and human activity (Massazza, 2022). According to a study of 10 000 young people and children in 10 different countries, 45% of them said that climate change affected their daily lives negatively (Massazza, 2022). Although eco-anxiety has not been classified as a disorder yet, it can definitely lead to some (Massazza, 2022). Symptoms of eco-anxiety include stress, worrying, an inability to sleep, and in extreme cases, depression (Iberdrola, n.d.).
Extreme Weather Events
Extreme weather events are becoming more and more frequent due to climate change. These events can cause anxiety and other chronic disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2019). For those dealing with the aftermath of extreme weather events, other mental impacts may include trauma and isolation from other members of their community (American Psychiatric Association, 2019). Extreme weather events have also been shown to lead to more aggressive behavior, domestic violence, and higher rates of suicide (American Psychiatric Association, 2019). This may be due to the fact that some may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol use and abuse (American Psychiatric Association, 2019). Increasing temperature has been linked to negative moods as well, making people more irritable and stressed (American Psychiatric Association, 2019). Furthermore, climate change can lead to food and water insecurity, more sources of significant stress to lay onto people already dealing with other things on their plates (Massazza, 2022). In some extreme cases, populations may need to leave their homes entirely and migrate to different places (American Psychiatric Association, 2019).
Although many people are able to recover following an extreme weather event, others may have a more difficult time (Massazza, 2022). Children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses and impairments, refugees, people of lower socioeconomic status, and pregnant women are all part of the most vulnerable populations (American Psychiatric Association, 2019). These people may have pre-existing conditions that make it more difficult for them to adapt to climate-related disasters (Massazza, 2022). For instance, people with impairments may rely a lot on health systems that can be disrupted due to extreme weather events, leading to stress as they are unable to receive treatment and the support that they need (American Psychiatric Association, 2019). Low-income communities also struggle with adaptation and resilience as they lack the resources necessary to do so (Massazza, 2022).
What You Can Do to Become More Resilient
Although climate change may seem like a huge problem, it is encouraging to see that more and more people are becoming aware and taking action against it. Protecting our environment can mean protecting ourselves as well, so there is no need to feel discouraged! Here are some things you can do to increase your resilience while contributing positively to the environment to decrease those feelings of anxiety and helplessness:
- Know the problem. Educate yourself about the effects of climate change and raise awareness about climate change issues (Iberdrola, n.d.). The more you know, the better equipped you will be to deal with the impacts! Reading this article, for example, is a great way to learn more about how climate change can affect your mental health so that you can become more resilient!
- Get involved. Create strong social networks to fall back on in times of need. Social cohesion is one of the best ways to protect your mental health!
- Dispose of waste appropriately (Iberdrola, n.d.). Protecting the environment by reducing, reusing, recycling, and just being mindful of consumption can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow down climate change!
- Participate in sustainable activities (Iberdrola, n.d.). Consider hobbies such as gardening!
- Opt for green modes of transportation (Iberdrola, n.d.). When possible, reach for a skateboard or a bike instead of taking a car.
- Conserve energy (Iberdrola, n.d.). Turn off the tap and the lights when you are not using them.
If you want to learn more about climate change and mental health, check this out!
American Psychiatric Association. (2019). How Extreme Weather Events Affect Mental Health. APA. Retrieved May 16, 2023 from: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/climate-change-and-mental-health-connections/affects-on-mental-health
Iberdrola. (n.d.). Eco-anxiety: the psychological aftermath of the climate crisis. Iberdrola. Retrieved May 17, 2023 from: https://www.iberdrola.com/social-commitment/what-is-ecoanxiety
Massazza, A. (2022). Explained: How climate change affects mental health. Wellcome. Retrieved May 17, 2023 from: https://wellcome.org/news/explained-how-climate-change-affects-mental-health
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