A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the serious mental health risks associated with climate change. Released last year, the report urges nations worldwide to address mental health challenges arising from climate crises, especially for those who have endured or continue to experience natural disasters, drought, poverty, elevated temperatures, and proximity to industrial facilities.
Living in harsh climate conditions, such as hurricanes, wildfires, or arid regions, can significantly impact an individual’s mental health. Beyond the immediate aftermath of a disaster, experts emphasize that the psychological effects persist in the days following the initial shock.
Anxiety, feelings of helplessness, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicidal thoughts are all psychological consequences experienced by individuals grappling with the repercussions of climate change and natural disasters. The WHO report emphasizes the need for governments to secure the electoral process, as individuals living through these events are particularly vulnerable.
The devastating wildfires in California a few months ago, according to the WHO, increased the suffering of residents, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Approximately 67% of the state’s population reported experiencing fear, phobias, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and general fatigue for weeks after the catastrophe.
Moreover, the impact is not limited to those directly affected by such events. According to the report, climate change affects the mental health of individuals who have not personally experienced any natural disasters. Following news coverage of these events alone can evoke feelings of anxiety, fear, and distress.
The WHO also states that the continued climate fluctuations, rising temperatures, and worsening air pollution may be significant contributors to depression, violence, sudden mood changes, and a direct cause of increased emergency room visits related to mental health.
Climate change doesn’t only affect those amid events. According to the report, individuals with underlying mental health conditions or specific addiction issues may be more susceptible to mortality due to increased temperatures or humidity.
Globally, climate-related stress is rising among young people. A survey conducted in ten countries found that 84% of youth aged sixteen to twenty-five experienced moderate climate-related anxiety. Almost half of them reported that climate change affected their daily lives and careers significantly.
These findings underscore the urgent need for global action to address the mental health consequences of climate change. The report emphasizes the interconnectedness of physical and mental health and calls for comprehensive strategies to mitigate the psychological impact of environmental challenges.