People’s anxiety and distress about the implications of climate change are undermining mental health and well-being, according to a new federal report reviewing existing research on the topic. Issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the report is the first time the federally mandated group has published an assessment solely focused on climate change and health.
The report is notable for another reason, too: It contains a chapter devoted to mental health and well-being, a significant step forward for an assessment of this type, says lead author Daniel Dodgen, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. “I think people realize that if you’re going to talk about health, you have to talk about mental health,” he says.
The report also found that:
- Exposure to climate- and weather-related natural disasters can result in mental health consequences such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. A significant proportion of people affected by those events develop chronic psychological dysfunction.
- Some people are at higher risk for mental health consequences from weather-related disasters. Among them are children, pregnant and postpartum women, people with pre-existing mental illness, people who