The Widespread Impact of Eco-Anxiety

By Anushree Gade | Lister Hill Center Intern 


Climate change has been gathering large amounts of attention in recent years. Since the late twentieth century, temperatures have been rising, and 2020 was the second warmest year in recorded history. Greenhouse gas emissions have tremendously contributed to the observed increase in atmospheric temperature. As a result, ice sheets have been melting worldwide, making some cities more prone to flooding because of the rising sea levels. One example is the city of Jakarta, Indonesia, which has been experiencing frequent flooding and is expected to be entirely submerged by the year 2050. 

With the climate changing so rapidly, many people are becoming anxious about their future and future generations, a phenomenon often called eco-anxiety. Eco-anxiety is experienced more extensively by today’s youth. In a large study done with 10,000 young adults, more than half of those that participated were worried for their future. Additionally, about half of the respondents indicated that their anxiety regarding climate change impacted their daily lives. Many people experiencing eco-anxiety believe that their country’s governments have not been doing enough to address the growing issue of climate change and global warming. In a poll conducted by the Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, 57% of the teenagers said that climate change scared them, and 52% said it made them sad. Only 29% of the teenagers reported that they were optimistic. 

The youth today think significantly about climate change and its associated consequences in the future. As a result, eco-anxiety is a common experience for today’s youth, more so than older adults. This anxiety also stems from the fear of uncertainty that humans generally possess. The youth also report low levels of optimism for the future due to the climate crisis. The impacts of climate change on mental health are immense and must be recognized. Anxiety and stress can have adverse long-term effects on health. Experiencing prolonged anxiety can develop other health complications such as respiratory problems, gastrointestinal issues, weakened immune system, heart disease, hypertension, and more. With the likelihood of anxiety leading to additional health consequences, we must address this anxiety stemming from the changing climate.

If you are experiencing eco-anxiety or are passionate about addressing this issue of climate change, here are some things you can do:

  • Make lifestyle changes to be more environmentally conscious and sustainable.
    • Example: Re-evaluating how you commute to work. You can consider carpooling, using public transportation, walking, or cycling to places near where you live.
  • Identifying small things in your life that can help make a change
  • Participate in the political processes to promote environmental policies where you live. 
  • Talk to your family and friends to express your concern.
  • Connect with others who are also going through the same as you.