Climate change, mental health, and eco-anxiety

Clara Della Libera (1), Camille Mouguiama Daouda (1), Gérald Deschietere (2), Alexandre Heeren (1,3,4) Published in the journal : January 2024 Category : Durabilité et Soins de Santé: Quels Défis pour le Futur

Summary :

In 2022, the second section of the sixth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) dedicated a full chapter to the impact of climate change on health, including physical, community, and mental health. In terms of mental health, the authors reported observations of various impacts related to direct and indirect exposure to extreme weather events (e.g., floods) and gradual chronic changes (e.g., air pollution). Adequately documented, such impacts require the rapid adoption of healthcare system action plans. Beyond these effects, anxiety linked to the anticipation of climate change impacts – also known as eco-anxiety – represents an underexplored field whose prevalence and consequences on mental health remain poorly investigated. Recent studies suggest that, when moderate in intensity, eco-anxiety may constitute an adaptive response that stimulates the adoption of environmentally friendly behaviors without harming mental health. Delimiting the existence and predictors of such a range represents a crucial challenge of scientific research in this field. Here, we present some potential clinical interventions derived from similar fields of psychotherapy.

What is already known about this topic?

- Climate change has deleterious effects on mental health.
- These effects come from various complex pathways and are moderated by numerous vulnerability factors, including socio-economic status, gender, or age.
- Adaptation of healthcare systems is urgently needed to better anticipate and respond to crises.
- Eco-anxiety, within a certain range of intensity, may represent an adaptive response to climate threats.
- Further investigations are required to delineate and promote an adaptive form of eco-anxiety.

What does this article bring up for us?

- A brief overview of the impacts of climate change on mental health.
- A brief discussion on the adaptive value of eco-anxiety.
- Clinical strategies to promote an optimal level of eco-­anxiety.


Climate change, health, mental health, eco-anxiety, climate anxiety