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Young people most impacted by climate anxiety

Anxiety about climate change is on the rise and children and teenagers are being most affected, according to a new paper from QIMR Berghofer.

The Medical Research Institute’s lead author and psychologist Tara Crandon said the attitudes of parents, communities, and governments can contribute to climate anxiety.

“Parents’ values and behaviour towards climate change can shape the views and emotions of their children and it’s important that they are aware of this,” Ms Crandon said.

When parents are particularly fearful about climate change it can have a flow on effect to their children.

The authors suggest that speaking about climate change in a way that promotes hope and action can reduce anxiety.

Other influencers of climate anxiety include the internet, schools, and peer relationships.

“While the internet, for example, can help educate young people about climate change and inspire action, it can also fuel a sense of despair when stories are sensationalised.”

It’s hoped this information, which comes from a review of world leading articles on the topic, can help parents, health professionals, school leaders and policy makers assist young people manage the emotional impacts of climate anxiety.

Senior author and QIMR Berghofer researcher, Dr Hannah Thomas says climate anxiety can affect young people in different ways.

“Some people may experience anxiety that they can channel into environmental behaviours and positive engagement with activist organisations. But we know others can experience anxiety so significant that it impairs their ability to do the things that are most important to them,” Dr Thomas said.

“By pulling together this research we set the scene for how we might be able to tackle the issue and help young people manage climate change as it is happening.”

Ms Crandon said climate anxiety in young people is a growing area of research, and more discussion and investigation is needed to understand its influences and effects.

“It’s really important that we understand these varying impacts and find ways to support young people to respond to climate change in ways that are meaningful for them and for the planet,” she said.

The article has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change.