Climate change can have short-term and long-term mental health effects, according to a 2107 report by the American Psychological Association. Natural disasters have the most obvious impact, but long-term effects of climate change also have a significant impact on mental health. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, loss of identity and substance abuse are among the many effects on individuals. Climate change can also harm the mental health of communities. People living in certain types of communities, such as those that depend on the natural environment to make a living, are at higher risk for climate change-related mental health problems.
Mental Health Effects of Climate Change
Natural disasters have an immediate effect on mental health and while the initial effects tend to go away over time, many people who experience natural disasters develop PTSD. Climate change has long-term effects besides natural disasters. It can rob individuals and entire communities of their livelihood, force people to move, and destroy quality of life, leading to mental health problems. Worry and stress about the future effects of climate change can also lead to mental and physical health issues.
According to the APA report, mental health effects of climate change include:
- Other mood disorders
- Loss of personal identity
- Loss of professional identity
- Loss of a sense of control
- Loss of autonomy
- Feelings of helplessness
- Substance abuse
At the community level, negative effects included increased hostility and aggression and loss of social identity.
Those at Risk
Some communities are harder hit by climate change, and its mental health impacts. These include:
- Communities that rely on agriculture, fishing, and tourism for their livelihood
- Socioeconomically disadvantaged communities
- Indigenous communities at risk of losing their homes and way of life