A healthy climate is vital for all life on Earth. Nature is of utmost importance not only concerning our physical survival but our mental health. Spending time in green spaces has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety, improve individuals’ moods, and positively impact overall well-being. This is known as “ecotherapy” or “green therapy”, and it involves activities such as gardening, walking in parks, and spending time in nature reserves.
The continual shift in global climate has lately become an alarming matter with the potential to affect various facets of our existence. Of all these areas, one which arouses particular interest is its connection to mental wellness. Although some aspects of climate can have advantageous effects on psychological well-being, others possess harmful impacts too.
Climate change can potentially elicit the development of climate anxiety, which is stress and anxiety caused by the recognition of the scale and impact of climate change, as well as the feeling of helplessness in the face of this global crisis. Like general anxiety, climate anxiety can manifest in different ways, including feelings of despair, hopelessness, and fear for the future. It can also lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbances, and changes in appetite. Climate anxiety can be particularly prevalent among younger generations who are more likely to be concerned about the impact of climate change on their future.
We should not forget about how the weather itself can affect one’s state. It is common knowledge that populations residing in colder areas have a higher prevalence of depression, linked to the lack of sun and vitamin D. On the other hand, the head has been linked to aggression, moreover, aging populations, which increase exponentially due to scientific progress, have a higher prevalence of mental illness in a warmer climate.
An increase in natural disasters is a likely consequence of climate change. Hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods can cause a range of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. It further leads to disruption of everyday life, loss of homes and possessions, and uncertainty about the future can all contribute to feelings of anxiety and stress. In addition, the displacement of people from their homes and communities can lead to social isolation and a loss of support networks, which can further exacerbate mental health issues.
A Potential Positive: Living Sustainably
Climate change may force the population into attempting to leave sustainably, such as by reducing waste, conserving energy, and making conscious choices about what we consume. Sustainable living can provide a sense of purpose and meaning, as individuals can make a positive impact on the environment. This can boost overall well-being and lead to a sense of accomplishment. It would also involve spending time outdoors, which can have a positive impact on mental health. Finally, living sustainably can also lead to financial benefits, which can reduce stress and anxiety.
In conclusion, the relationship between mental health and climate is complex and multi-faceted. While nature and sustainable living can have a positive impact on mental health, natural disasters, and climate anxiety can have a negative impact. We must recognize the potential impact of climate change on mental health and take steps to address these issues. This may involve promoting ecotourism and green spaces, investing in disaster response and support networks, and taking action to mitigate the negative impact.
By Diana Sultanova, Mental Health Intern