Eco-Anxiety: Let’s talk about the weight of climate change

kratz.jpgBy Robyn Krawitz, BHSc Candidate, School of Health Studies

Despite climate change being one of the most talked-about global issues, how often do we hear discussions of its psychological implications? Climate change is typically addressed from a political, social, physical, or even economic perspective. When relating climate change to health, we know that increased temperatures and air pollution, for example, can lead to increased rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. In contrast, when relating climate change to mental health specifically, the outcomes are scarcely studied. As a member of the generation that has no choice but to consider the weight of our current climate crisis, I believe that the mental health impacts need to be addressed.

The term eco-anxiety refers to anxiety in connection to climate change and environmental disasters. Eco-anxiety can lead to panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, and insomnia amongst various other psychological effects. With this being said, there is still very limited knowledge on the prevalence of eco-anxiety, who it affects the most, and the best methods to ease it (Wu, Snell, & Samji, 2020). I believe that we as a society need to allocate our resources to the research of eco-anxiety, to train our healthcare providers on how to best support individuals in distress. Whilst it may be common knowledge that natural disasters such as hurricanes or floods can lead to depression, anxiety, or PTSD, the same cannot be said for climate change. Very few people are aware of eco-anxiety, which does not create a society that can support these individuals through their distress. We need to educate the population on concepts such as eco-anxiety, to be able to mitigate the effects of it and to provide the best social support to our communities. Some ways that we could achieve this, could be to implement climate education into school curriculums, have campaigns to raise awareness, or perhaps propose new policies that target climate change relief in a more urgent matter (SDG Knowledge Hub, 2021).

With the limited studies that have been done on eco-anxiety, a clear conclusion can be made, that it disproportionately affects young people. In particular, these youth experience immense hopelessness and fear, with an uncertainty of what the future holds. Specific worries may include fear of losing their homes due to natural disasters brought on by the climate crisis, or having no resources left for future generations. Eco-anxiety puts children and youth specifically at heightened risk for depression, generalized anxiety, and substance use disorders. Therefore, we must invest our resources into researching the short and long-term effects of eco-anxiety to understand the grief, worry, and frustration it causes, in an attempt to promote mental well-being (Wu, Snell, & Samji, 2020).

With instances of eco-anxiety increasing, we have a duty to equip medical professionals with the knowledge of how to care for these patients. Andrew Bryant is an American therapist who explains that he felt helpless the first time a patient came in experiencing eco-anxiety because he had no training or experience dealing with the psychological implications of climate change. In fact, Bryant is not the only therapist in this boat. Many mental health professionals do not feel equipped to support their patients when it comes to eco-anxiety (Whitcomb, 2021). The best way to help individuals struggling with eco-anxiety is to have climate-informed care be available to them. This underlines that research and space to reflect is needed, to determine how and where to equip spaces of care.

In conclusion, a population health intervention is most definitely needed. As a society, we need to work together to raise awareness for eco-anxiety, to better educate those around us on the condition, how to alleviate others going through it, and how to cope ourselves. Climate change and its psychological implications are not going to disappear overnight. Instead, we need to build a community that is attentive to the matter at hand and invest resources into further researching this area of climate science.


SDG Knowledge Hub. (2021). Climate anxiety highlighted at Youth Environment Assembly: News: SDG knowledge hub: IISD. International Institute for Sustainable Development. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from

Whitcomb, I. (2021). Therapists are reckoning with eco-anxiety. Scientific American. Retrieved from

Wu, J., Snell, G., & Samji, H. (2020). Climate anxiety in young people: A call to action. The Lancet Planetary Health, 4(10).


Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash