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LONDON — A global study has found young people are suffering “profound psychological distress” due to climate change and government inaction on the crisis.
Some 45% of the 10,000 young people surveyed across 10 countries for the study, published Tuesday, said anxiety and distress over the climate crisis was affecting their daily life and ability to function.
Three-quarters of respondents aged 16-25 felt that the “future is frightening,” while 64% of young people said that governments were not doing enough to avoid a climate crisis.
In fact, nearly two-thirds of young people felt betrayed by governments and 61% said governments were not protecting them, the planet or future generations.
The study, which was said to be the first large-scale research of its kind, was led by academics from the U.K.’s University of Bath and the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health, among others. It is under peer review in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.
“Such high levels of distress, functional impact and feelings of betrayal will inevitably impact the mental health of children and young people,” the authors of the study warned.
They added that while climate anxiety may not constitute a mental illness in itself, “the realities of climate change alongside governmental failures to act are chronic, long term and potentially inescapable stressors; conditions in which mental health problems will worsen.”
Caroline Hickman, a researcher from the University of Bath Climate Psychology Alliance and a co-lead author of the study, said that anxiety among children was a “completely rational reaction given the inadequate responses to climate change they are seeing from governments.”
In addition, Liz Marks, a senior lecturer from the University of Bath and another co-lead author of the study, said it was “shocking to hear how so many young people from around the world feel betrayed by those who are supposed to protect them.”
“Now is the time to face the truth, listen to young people, and take urgent action against climate change,” she added.
Young people from countries in the Global South expressed more worry about the climate crisis, with 92% in the Philippines describing the future as “frightening.” However, 81% of the young people surveyed in Portugal also expressed this level of concern, the highest rate among the Global North countries included in the study. Portugal has seen an increase in wildfires in recent years amid higher temperatures.
Separately, data published at the end of August by U.K. market research company Ipsos Mori found that public concern about climate change and pollution had climbed to record levels. This was based on a study of more than 1,000 U.K. adults, which found 38% over those aged over 55-year- old were likely to raise concerns around the environment, versus 24% of Britons aged 18-34.