Understanding Eco Anxiety: Mental Health and the Environmental Crisis


Understanding Eco-Anxiety: The Intersection of Mental Health and Climate Change

In recent years, the discourse surrounding mental health has expanded to encompass a lesser-known but equally significant phenomenon: eco-anxiety. The term eco-anxiety encapsulates the psychological distress and apprehension experienced by individuals in response to the deteriorating state of the environment and climate change impact. While the impact of environmental degradation on physical health is well-documented, its implications for mental well-being are often overlooked. This month, Breathe ESG and Docsy decided to embark on a mission that seeks to explore the intricate relationship between mental health conditions and vulnerability to natural disasters caused by climate change, the adverse effects of environmental crises on mental health, and the prevalence of eco-anxiety disorders among different demographic groups.

The Mental Toll of Natural Disasters

People with pre-existing mental health conditions often find themselves at heightened risk during natural disasters brought about by climate change impact. For instance, individuals reliant on lithium mood stabilisers face increased susceptibility to heatwaves, as these medications can impair the body's ability to regulate temperature effectively. The tragic consequence of this vulnerability underscores the urgent need to consider the intersection of mental health and environmental crises.

Environmental Degradation's Silent Impact on Mental Well-being

The deteriorating environmental conditions, marked by poor air quality and the proliferation of pollutants, pose significant threats to mental well-being. As Dr. Ooha states, "Rising temperatures during daily commutes or work hours can lead to discomfort, reduced productivity, and heightened anxiety disorders." Exposure to air pollutants has been linked to adverse changes in brain chemistry, exacerbating symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression. Moreover, the psychological toll of witnessing environmental degradation firsthand can induce feelings of despair and hopelessness, further exacerbating mental health conditions.

Youth Facing Environmental Anxiety

The burden of environmental anxiety is not limited to adults; it permeates the lives of school children and young people as well. Instead of relishing in the joys of youth, they are forced to contend with the looming spectre of environmental uncertainty and climate change impact. From concerns about air pollution to the existential threat of climate change, young individuals are confronted with daunting challenges that compromise their mental well-being and rob them of their innocence.

University students, in particular, grapple with a myriad of eco-related psychological issues. Manifestations of eco-anxiety, eco-anger, and eco-depression are increasingly prevalent on campuses worldwide. The overwhelming sense of helplessness in the face of global environmental degradation and climate change pervades academic discourse, leaving students paralyzed by fear and uncertainty about the future.

Workplace Worries: Eco-Anxiety's Impact on Professional Life

Even those entrenched in the workforce are not immune to the psychological ramifications of environmental crises and climate change impact. Many individuals find themselves grappling with the existential dilemma of choosing between pursuing careers aligned with environmental advocacy and succumbing to the demands of industries contributing to ecological harm. The pervasive sense of helplessness in effecting meaningful change can lead to feelings of disillusionment and despair among professionals across various sectors.

Strategies to Tame Eco-Anxiety Disorders

Coping with eco-anxiety disorders induced by environmental crises and climate change impact requires a proactive approach. Here are some effective strategies:

● Limit Exposure to Disturbing News: Establish boundaries for when and how often you check updates on environmental degradation and climate change to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

● Take Sustainable Actions: Focus on making small but actionable changes in your lifestyle, such as reducing waste or supporting eco-friendly organisations, to combat climate change causes.

● Connect with Nature: Engage in nature-based activities like walking in the park or gardening to foster a sense of tranquillity and connectedness with the environment.

● Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness techniques like deep breathing exercises or meditation to alleviate overwhelming feelings stemming from environmental crises.

● Seek Support: Don't hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or mental health professionals for valuable insights and coping strategies tailored to your individual needs.

● Join Community Efforts: Engage in community and policy advocacy to amplify the voices calling for environmental action and mental health resources addressing eco-anxiety disorders.

● Utilise Professional Resources: Explore organisations like Docsy and environmental action groups that offer valuable resources and opportunities to get involved in mitigating climate change causes.


In conclusion, eco-anxiety represents a poignant reminder of the inextricable link between environmental crises, climate change impact, and mental health. From vulnerable populations facing heightened risks during natural disasters to the pervasive sense of despair gripping individuals of all ages, the toll of environmental degradation on mental well-being cannot be overstated. As Dr. Ooha aptly observes, "Eco-anxiety, a byproduct of environmental concerns and climate change causes, exacerbates this overarching sense of unease. It emphasises the interconnectedness of societal challenges, highlighting how climate, politics, and personal struggles intersect to create a pervasive feeling of helplessness." This holistic perspective underscores the need for comprehensive approaches to mitigate the psychological impacts of climate change and navigate its complex interplay with individual well-being and societal dynamics.

As we navigate the complex challenges posed by climate change causes and ecological degradation, it is imperative to prioritise mental health support and foster resilience in the face of adversity. By acknowledging and addressing the psychological dimensions of climate change and environmental crises, we can hope to build a more sustainable and equitable future for all.


Kelly, Anna, "Eco-Anxiety at University: Student Experiences and Academic Perspectives on Cultivating  Healthy Emotional Responses to the Climate Crisis" (2017). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. 2642. https://digitalcollections.sit.edu/isp_collection/2642

Mento, C.; Damiani, F.; La Versa, M.; Cedro, C.; Muscatello, M.R.A.; Bruno, A.; Fabio, R.A.; Silvestri, M.C. Eco-Anxiety: An Evolutionary Line from Psychology to Psychopathology. Medicina 2023, 59, 2053. https://doi.org/10.3390/ medicina59122053

Kurth C and Pihkala P (2022) Eco-anxiety: What it is and why it matters. Front. Psychol. 13:981814. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.981814

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