Climate emotions and anxiety among young people in Canada: A national survey and call to action
Young people have a unique positionality in relation to the mental and emotional dimensions of climate change: they have contributed the least to the crisis, they are and will be disproportionately impacted, and they have limited opportunities and invaluable perspectives for influencing action. Evidence increasingly illustrates that young people are particularly vulnerable to climate distress and anxiety.
Methods: The purpose of this study was to generate knowledge about climate emotions and climate anxiety among young people using a representative survey. We surveyed 1000 young people (aged 16–25) across Canada. The online survey asked respondents about: (i) climate emotions and their impacts, (ii) perspectives on the future due to climate change, (iii) perspectives and feelings about government (in)action, (iv) perspectives on supports, programs, and resources needed to cope with climate emotions and anxiety, and (v) perspectives on climate change education (including socio-emotional dimensions). Data were weighted to improve representativeness according to age, gender, and region. Descriptive analyses were conducted, scales were generated, and textual responses were analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: Young Canadians are experiencing a diversity of challenging climate emotions. At least 56% of respondents reported feeling afraid, sad, anxious, and powerless. 78% reported that climate change impacts their overall mental health and 37% reported that their feelings about climate change negatively impact daily functioning. Data also illustrate that climate change is contributing to negative perceptions about their future. For example, 39% of respondents report hesitation about having children due to climate change, 73% report thinking that the future is frightening, and 76% report that people have failed to take care of the planet. Respondents rated governmental responses to climate change negatively and reported greater feelings of betrayal than of reassurance. The data show that young Canadians need a diversity of coping supports and believe the formal education system should be doing more to support them. Conclusion: This study adds to the emerging and increasingly concerning evidence base on climate emotions and anxiety among young people. We conclude by summarizing key directions for future research.