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Climate Emotions and Anxiety Among Young People in Canada: A National Survey and Call to Action

20 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2022

See all articles by Lindsay Paige Galway

Lindsay Paige Galway

Lakehead University - Department of Health Sciences

Ellen Field

Lakehead University - Department of Education

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Abstract

Background: Young people have a unique positionality in relation to the mental and emotional dimensions of climate change: they have contributed the least to the crisis, they are and will be disproportionately impacted, and they have limited opportunities and invaluable perspectives for influencing action. Evidence increasingly illustrates that young people are particularly vulnerable to climate distress and anxiety.

Methods: The purpose of this study was to generate knowledge about climate emotions and climate anxiety among young people (aged 16–25) in Canada using a representative survey and expanding on the multi-national study Hickman et al. (2021) study. Our survey (n=1000) replicated questions used by Hickman et al. to examine climate emotions, thoughts about the future, and perceptions of government action. We included additional questions to understand coping supports young people identify as needed and views on climate change education. Descriptive analyses were conducted, scales were generated, and textual responses were analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings: Young Canadians are experiencing challenging climate emotions. At least 58% of respondents reported feeling afraid, sad, anxious, and powerless and nearly 40% reported that feelings about climate change negatively affect their daily life. Data illustrate that that climate change is contributing to negative perceptions about their future. Respondents rated governmental responses to climate change negatively and reported greater feelings of betrayal than of reassurance. The data show that young Canadians need a diversity of coping supports and believe the formal education system should be doing more.

Interpretation: This study adds to the emerging evidence base of climate emotions and anxiety by contributing Canadian data on young people. The discussion summarizes implications for coping and actions within formal education, along with future research directions.

Funding Information: This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council who had no role in data collection, analysis, or reporting.

Declaration of Interests: LPG and EF declare no competing interests.

Ethics Approval Statement: The study received ethical approval from the Lakehead University Research Ethics Board.

Keywords: climate emotions, climate anxiety, eco-anxiety, climate action, coping, climate change education

Suggested Citation

Galway, Lindsay Paige and Field, Ellen, Climate Emotions and Anxiety Among Young People in Canada: A National Survey and Call to Action. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4217725 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4217725

Lindsay Paige Galway (Contact Author)

Lakehead University - Department of Health Sciences ( email )

Ellen Field

Lakehead University - Department of Education ( email )