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Young Persons’ Psychological Responses, Mental Health and Sense of Agency for the Dual Challenges of Climate Change and a Global Pandemic
22 Pages Posted: 26 May 2021More...
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change are both significant and pressing global challenges, posing threats to public health and wellbeing. Young people represent a particularly vulnerable group to the distress both crises appear to engender, but we currently lack an understanding of the varied psychological responses to both issues, and their links with mental health conditions and feelings of agency.
Methods: We conducted an online survey in August - October 2020 targeting a diverse sample of young people (16–24 years, N=530) in the United Kingdom.
Findings: While UK youth reported more life disruption and concern for their future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change was associated with significantly greater distress overall, particularly for individuals with low levels of generalised anxiety. COVID-19 was more associated with feelings of anxiety, isolation, disconnection, and frustration; distress around loss and grief; and effects on quality of life. Climate change was more likely to evoke interest and engagement, guilt, shame, anger, and disgust; and distress associated with guilt, feeling responsible and media coverage. Agency to address climate change was associated with greater climate distress, but COVID-related distress and agency were unrelated.
Interpretation: COVID-19 and climate change are affecting the wellbeing of young people in distinct ways, with implications for health service, policy and research responses. There is a need for mental health practitioners and policy makers to account for the complex relationship between climate agency, distress and mental wellbeing in young people.
Funding: Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London.
Declaration of Interests: We declare no conflicts of interest.
Ethics Approval Statement: The study was reviewed and received approval from the Imperial College London Science, Engineering, & Technology Research Ethics Committee (SETREC; approval number 20IC6060).
Keywords: COVID-19, climate crisis, climate action, eco-anxiety, anxiety, resilience, emotional well-being
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation