Growing up in the emerging reality of the climate crisis is taking a toll on the mental health of young people. According to a global survey and peer-reviewed study soon to be published in Lancet Planetary Health, a scientific journal, 75% of young people think the future is scary and 45% say that climate concern has a negative impact on their day.
The study, which claims to be the largest survey to date on climate anxiety among young people, surveyed 10,000 people aged 16 to 25 in 10 countries. Four of the countries were in the Global South (Brazil, India, Nigeria and the Philippines) and the other six were in the Global North (Australia, France, Finland, Portugal, UK and USA)
Levels of concern varied from country to country, tending to be higher in the countries of the South studied than in those of the North. When asked if the safety of their own families would be threatened by climate change, for example, on average 65.5% of people in the South said yes, compared to 42% in the North.
Looming threats from the climate crisis, which include increasing extreme weather conditions and economic instability, are affecting how young people plan for their future, the survey suggests, with 39% of respondents saying they are reluctant to have their own children. The proportion stating that reluctance varied relatively little between countries, ranging between 36% and 48% for all respondents except Nigeria, an outlier of 22%
Young people were also asked how they perceive governments’ responses to the climate crisis. Generally speaking, governments have failed to reassure young people with their actions, according to the study, with 64% of respondents saying officials lie about the impact of the measures they take and 58% saying that governments betray future generations.
In almost all categories, negative feelings about the government’s climate response were most prevalent in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has overseen a dismantling of environmental protections since 2019. Respondents in Finland were least likely to have a negative perception of their government’s actions, although even there 47% believed the government was betraying young people.