Experts warn of mental health issues triggered by climate change crisis

·2-min read

Experts have warned the climate change crisis is having a devastating impact on the mental health of people around the world.

Extreme weather in the form of wildfires, floods, hurricanes and drought is on the increase and a new report claims this is sparking a rise in anxiety, depression and even suicide rates.

"Mental health is the unseen impact of climate change at the moment," said Emma Lawrance, from Imperial College London, who led the report. "It is a big problem that is going to affect more and more people into the future, and in particular, exacerbate inequality. It is very likely to be a really big unaccounted cost.

"If you have lost your home, if you're at risk of repeated flooding, if you're grieving because you've lost a family member to a fire or your livelihood because of a drought, that is shock and trauma that translates for some into very prolonged distress and diagnoses of PTSD, anxiety, depression and increased risk of suicide."

Extreme weather can trigger mental health issues due to the loss of homes and income, as well as reduced access to food, water and healthcare.

Poor mental health was reported by those affected by flooding in Thailand and the U.K., people battling droughts in Sudan and Australia, as well individuals left displaced after a hurricane in Florida.

This cycle of climate crisis affecting mental health is an issue for millions of people around the world, but scientists are particularly concerned about the impact of so-called 'eco-anxiety' on young people.

Even as the Covid-19 pandemic spread worldwide last year, young people in the U.K. said they were significantly more stressed about climate issues than the virus itself.

The study authors said the increase of mental health issues is the "hidden cost" of climate change as it has been overlooked in policy and planning by most countries.

"Anecdotally there are rising rates of distress, and it is going to affect a huge number of people," Lawrance added, reports The Guardian. "The grief and fear that comes with that, and especially for young people who see inaction on climate, can really exacerbate distress."

Previous studies have shown that issues such as air pollution, soaring temperatures and wildfires can contribute to higher rates of suicide.

Individuals with pre-existing mental illnesses such as dementia, psychosis and substance abuse are also reported to be two to three times more likely to die during a heatwave.