New APA Poll Reveals That Americans are Increasingly Anxious About Climate Change’s Impact on Planet, Mental Health

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 21, 2020 – More than two-thirds of Americans (67%) are somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on the planet, and more than half (51%) are somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on their own mental health, according to a new poll out today from the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

The year 2020 saw devastating fires throughout the western U.S. as well as an intense tropical storm season impacting the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf Coast. Scientists widely agree that climate change is playing an increasing role in the severity of natural disasters. The percentage of Americans who agree climate change is probably or definitely affecting mental health increased from 47% in 2019 to 68% in 2020, and the percentage saying it is affecting health increased from 65% in 2019 to 73% in 2020.

“These results are a wake-up call on how climate change not only hurts our environment, but also negatively impacts our mental health,” said APA President Jeffrey Geller, M.D., M.P.H. “Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals need to be aware that in addition to the many other concerns in our world today, the impacts of climate change are weighing on the minds of most Americans.”

Across generations, the majority of adults agree climate change is already impacting our health and mental health. Younger adults are more likely to be concerned about climate change on mental health than older adults: 67% of Gen Zers (18-23 years) and 63% of millennials (24-39 years) are somewhat or very concerned about the impact of climate change on their mental health compared to 42% of baby boomers (56-74 years) and 58% of Gen Xers (40-55 years).

The concern cuts across all races/ethnicities and gender. The majority of adults of all races/ethnicities (Hispanic/Latino, white, Black, Native American, Asian, and other) are somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on the planet and on mental health. Men and women held similar levels of concern about the impacts of climate change.

“The science on climate change is settled, and now the public, outside those who’ve been directly impacted, is beginning to understand the impact it has on overall health and mental health,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “Policymakers need to take this into consideration as they consider steps to alleviate the ongoing crisis.”

These findings are from an APA-sponsored poll conducted Sept. 14-16, 2020, using an online omnibus study by ENGINE INSIGHTS among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,004 adults 18 years of age and older, and from a similar poll of about 1,000 adults in April 2019. The margin of error is +/-3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For more information on how climate change is connected to mental health, go to this page.

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 38,800 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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