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Young People's Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon
23 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2021More...
Background: Climate change has significant implications for the health and futures of children and young people, yet they have little power to limit its harm, making them vulnerable to increased climate anxiety. Qualitative studies show climate anxiety is associated with perceptions of inadequate action by adults and governments, feelings of betrayal, abandonment and moral injury. This study offers the first large-scale investigation of climate anxiety in children and young people globally and its relationship to government response.
Methods: We surveyed 10,000 young people (aged 16-25 years) in ten countries. Data were collected on their thoughts and feelings about climate change, and government response.
Findings: Respondents were worried about climate change (59% very or extremely worried, 84% at least moderately worried). Over 50% felt sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty. Over 45% said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning, and many reported a high number of negative thoughts about climate change. Respondents rated the governmental response to climate change negatively and reported greater feelings of betrayal than of reassurance. Correlations indicated that climate anxiety and distress were significantly related to perceived inadequate government response and associated feelings of betrayal.
Interpretation: Climate change and inadequate governmental responses are associated with climate anxiety and distress in many children and young people globally. These psychological stressors threaten health and wellbeing, and could be construed as morally injurious and unjust. There is an urgent need for increases in both research and government responsiveness.
Funding: The costs of the survey were funded by AVAAZ.
Declaration of Interest: None to declare.
Ethical Approval: The study was approved by the University of Bath Psychology Ethics Committee (#21-090).
Keywords: climate anxiety, eco-anxiety, climate crisis, children, young people, global, mental health, moral injury, government inaction
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation