Do More, Worry Less: Climate Change Anxiety

Among students surveyed about climate anxiety, those actively participating in climate activism reported fewer symptoms of major depression.

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The melting snow caps and erratic weather are undeniable signs of significant environmental shifts. Ignoring these changes becomes increasingly challenging. It’s no surprise, then, that climate-induced anxiety is surging alongside rising temperatures.

Sarah Schwartz and colleagues delved into the impact of negative thoughts, feelings, and actions, as well as functional impairment linked to perceptions of climate change, interviewing 323 university students. Their research specifically investigated how environmental activism impacts symptoms related to climate change anxiety and major depressive disorder.

The figure below compares individuals with self-reported low and high levels of engagement in climate activism. It also shows the link between a person’s climate change worries and symptoms of major depressive disorder. Those actively participating in climate activism, by taking action and raising awareness, reported fewer symptoms of major depression.

Association between climate change anxiety and major depressive disorder symptoms for participants with low and high levels of climate activism

This research also showed that while taking personal steps to address climate change can help reduce anxiety, community engagement in climate activism is essential for improving overall mental health related to climate change anxiety. Community engagement offers individuals the opportunity to express and share climate change concerns, and to join real-world activities that reduce feelings of hopelessness.

While many respondents’ concerns about climate change weren’t severe, these worries could still impact mental health, potentially aggravating existing disorders. Schwartz and her colleagues advocate for collective action on climate issues, emphasizing its benefits not only for the environment but also for individual well-being. In climate matters: Do more, worry less!