"It's different for young people - for us, the destruction of the planet is personal."  This is the view of one respondent in a recent global survey that illustrates the depth of anxiety many young people are feeling about climate change.

How do young people feel about climate change?

The survey across 10 countries was led by Bath University in collaboration with five universities and funded by the campaign and research group Avaaz. It claims to be the biggest of its kind, with responses from 10,000 people aged between 16 and 25.  Many of those questioned perceive that they have no future, that humanity is doomed, and that governments are failing to respond adequately.  Many feel betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults.  The authors say the young are confused by governments' failure to act. They say environmental fears are "profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people".

The survey’s lead author is psychotherapist Caroline Hickman and is a PhD candidate in Education at the University of Bath researching children and young people’s relationships with nature and feelings about the climate and ecological crisis.  In a recent interview with BBC News, she said,

This shows eco-anxiety is not just for environmental destruction alone, but inextricably linked to government inaction on climate change. The young feel abandoned and betrayed by governments.  We're not just measuring how they feel, but what they think. Four out of 10 are hesitant to have children.  Governments need to listen to the science and not pathologise young people who feel anxious." – Caroline Hickman, University of Bath

Other headline results from the survey showed:

  • Nearly 60% of young people approached said they felt very worried or extremely worried.
  • More than 45% of those questioned said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives.
  • Three-quarters of them said they thought the future was frightening. Over half (56%) say they think humanity is doomed.
  • Two-thirds reported feeling sad, afraid and anxious. Many felt fear, anger, despair, grief and shame - as well as hope.

Climate change will impact mental health

The survey says young people are especially affected by climate fears because they are developing psychologically, socially and physically.  Chronic stress over climate change, says the survey authors, is increasing the risk of mental and physical problems. And if severe weather events worsen, mental health impacts will follow.

Click here to read the full survey ‘Young People's Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon’

Or click here to watch the survey launch hosted by the campaign and research group Avaaz which funded the survey


HDS Winter Conference 2021

After the discussions and pledges have been made during COP26 which takes place in Glasgow, we offer an engaging presentation and panel discussion on how psychoanalytic ideas and in particular child psychotherapy, can help understand and respond to children and young people’s concerns and feelings about climate change.

This November, our winter conference will be based around the theme of climate change and we will welcome speakers Isobel Pick, Margaret Rustin, Joan Herrmann and our host, Andrew Dawson, to discuss how psychoanalytic ideas and in particular child psychotherapy, can help understand and respond to children and young people’s concerns and feelings about climate change.

To find out more about our conference on Thursday 25 November on Zoom, please click on the link below.

Click here to find about more about the HDS Winter Conference