Climate insecurity can make young people more anxious – 15/09/2021

That Brazilian teenagers are very anxious, there is no doubt. For a decade now, with the change in algorithms and the massive use of ways to boost and share posts and content on social networks, the situation was already complex. The pandemic and social isolation only made the scenario worse. And now a new study brings yet another ingredient to this growing anxiety among youngsters: climate insecurity.

The work, carried out by researchers from several universities around the world and coordinated by researchers from the University of Bath (United Kingdom), is under review by the journal Lancet Planetary Health. The research was funded with individual donations from thousands of people around the world sent to Avaaz, a global social mobilization network that operates on the internet.

Anxiety and anguish with the weather

Ten thousand young people and teenagers from 10 different countries were interviewed (Australia, Brazil, France, Finland, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States). The data reveal that almost half of them (45%) consider themselves affected by anxiety and anguish caused by climate issues. It is the largest study ever carried out on this topic with participants aged between 16 and 25 years.

These young people tend to consider that this insecurity and anxiety may be affecting their daily lives and their normal functioning. More than half of the interviewees feel fear, sadness, anxiety, anger, impotence or guilt in relation to the topic. 59% are very concerned about the situation and believe they will have fewer opportunities than their parents.

Brazilians more scared of the future

The survey shows that, overall, Brazilians were more likely than average to report negative beliefs about climate change and the responses the government can provide to these challenges. 75% of young people in the world believe that the future is scary, and this rate reaches 86% here in Brazil. Reasons abound, isn’t it? Shrinking of the Amazon, long periods of drought, increasing fires, invasions of indigenous reserves, increasingly common weather accidents, scenarios that repeat year after year.

Anxiety and anguish regarding climate issues are strongly linked to the perception of lack of government attitude and feelings of betrayal. 77% of Brazilian youth consider themselves betrayed by the government and 79% believe the government is not doing enough to prevent a climate catastrophe.

This inaction can strongly contribute to young people’s insecurity about the future. In this sense, there is a risk of a generation that, in addition to facing additional risks to their mental health, may not be willing to invest in their professional and family future, as they can “read” the world as an unsafe place to be live, invest and have children.

The research comes after UNICEF published a report on the physical threat of climate change to children, which points out that one billion children could be at “extremely high risk” of suffering the impacts of climate change.

Some experts believe that the situation could psychologically harm this generation to such an extent that the impact could amount to human rights violations.

For young people who are already anxious, climate insecurity can be an additional factor of stress and discomfort. If for many, anxiety can paralyze, for others it can have the opposite effect and become a watershed, making them commit to this agenda and move towards changing what is not good, including their view of world and its process of policy choices.

Discover other numbers revealed by the survey on Brazilian youth:

  • 92% believe that people have failed to take care of the planet
  • 86% find the future frightening
  • 65% believe family safety is threatened

To learn more about youth behavior, visit my website doctorjairo.uol.com.br.