One of the most overlooked consequences of climate change? Our mental health

Source(s)
Environmental Health News

By Lawrence A. Palinkas

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The findings of one study after another are punctuated by breaking news or the direct experience of wildfires, hurricanes and floods that forced thousands of people to evacuate, damage property, and erase tangible reminders of our past.

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We respond to such news and events in a variety of ways. Some of us sink into deep despair or simply resign ourselves to the inevitability of global climate change. Some of us live with the trauma of having survived life-threatening extreme weather events. Some of us actively avoid the reality of climate change or spend considerable psychic energy denying that it is happening or, at the very least, denying our responsibility for its happening.

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People exposed to prolonged heat waves are more likely to make poor decisions that place them at risk for death or severe injury. People exposed to long-term drought are more likely to experience depression, interpersonal violence and thoughts of suicide. People exposed to sea level rise and coastal erosion are more likely to experience anxiety and interpersonal conflict with others in their community.

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Young people are especially vulnerable to these syndromes. A recent survey of youth living in the United States commissioned by the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than 70 percent believe climate change will cause a moderate or great deal of harm to people in their generation. About 57 percent of those interviewed reported that climate change makes them feel afraid.

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