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Americans Report Mental Health Effects of Climate Change, Worry About Future

  • April 05, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to the latest Healthy Minds Monthly* poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 58% of adults believe climate change is already impacting the health of Americans and nearly half (48%) agree that it’s impacting the mental health of Americans. Half of adults (51%) are anxious about climate change’s impact on future generations.

Among the 2,210 adults in a nationally representative sample polled by Morning Consult between March 19-21, 2022, more were worried about the impact of climate change on the planet (55%) than on their mental health (39%). They were split on how news about climate change affected their mood, with 42% saying it affected them some or a lot, and 43% not much or not at all.

“When you read about an ice shelf the size of the island of Manhattan breaking off Antarctica, it’s a very tangible, dramatic representation of climate change’s impact,” said APA President Vivian Pender, M.D. “But there are so many unseen mental health impacts as well, whether it’s in the anxiety over our children and grandchildren’s future, or the trauma to those who are physically displaced by fires or violent storms.”

Young people were more anxious about climate change. Of those aged 18-34, 66% were anxious about its effect on the planet, 51% were worried about its impact on their mental health, and 59% worried about its impact on future generations. They were also more likely to believe it was already having an effect on the health (64%) and mental health (57%) of Americans.

“Climate change is a public health emergency, and we can’t neglect mental health when we call it out,” said APA Committee on Climate Change Chair Elizabeth Haase, M.D. “Our care for the planet is our care for ourselves, and by taking action we help ourselves with its mental health effects.”

White people were the least likely to report anxiety over the impact of climate change on the planet (52%) versus Hispanics (62%), Black people (65%) or people of other ethnicities (66%). Those in the northeast (57%) and western region (58%) of the country reported being more worried about the effect of climate change on the planet than those in the Midwest (50%) and the South (54%).

Among those polled, 53% believe climate change is caused by human activity, 16% believe the cause is not yet determined, 13% believed it’s caused by something other than human activity, 8% don’t believe in climate change, and 11% had no opinion.

Those who rated their mental health as either fair or poor increased to nearly one-third of adults (31%) compared to 27% in February.

*APA’s Healthy Minds Monthly tracks timely mental health issues throughout the year. APA also releases its annual Healthy Minds Poll each May in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month. For the full results, contact [email protected].

Learn more about climate change and mental health in a new video from APA.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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