Global Health Asia-Pacific July 2022 - Page 22

Holistic Health

Collective action can alleviate climate change anxiety

The power of social bonds can ease the psychological fallout from the global crisis

Asense of foreboding over the future characterises our times , especially among the younger generation who understandably fears that environmental catastrophe is inevitable unless countries take decisive steps against it .

One important way to deal with these negative feelings is to join others in taking action against the root causes that are wreaking havoc on the environment , according to a recent study from the Yale School of Public Health ( YSPH ).
�There is definitely more research to be done , and we can ’ t make any claims about causality or the direction of the relationships ,” said YSPH Assistant Professor of Public Health Sarah Lowe , senior author of the study , in a press release . ��ut �our findings� suggest that engaging in collective action can buffer the effects of climate change anxiety and prevent it from leading to feelings of sadness and hopelessness that would be consistent with major depression .”
Based on a survey of around 300 university students , researchers found that anxiety produced by concerns over climate change was associated with signs of depression only in those who didn ’ t participate in group activities to tackle the problem , while students who engaged in community outreach , peer education , advocacy groups , and similar activities fared much better .
Similar benefits didn ’ t materialise when students took individual actions , like recycling or saving energy , probably because students saw those actions as ineffective .
Collective action , instead , can offer a sense of hope and social support that can be beneficial in beating back feelings of doom . “ We ’ re really thinking about the sense of social support and solidarity that students who engage in collective action have ,” said Professor Lowe . “ They ’ re with a group of like-minded people with whom they can discuss and process their feelings of climate change anxiety and not have that sense of sadness , hopelessness , or isolation from other people . That can be really powerful .”
Despite the positive message about group action , the survey is also another grim reminder of the psychological toll the environmental crisis is taking on young people who now expect “ widespread famine ” and an “ unlivable ” planet in the future .
Last June , a World Health Organization ( WHO ) policy brief highlighted that climate change posed significant risks to mental health and well-being while urging countries to consider mental health support as an important part of their action against the climate crisis . “ The impacts of climate change are increasingly part of our daily lives , and there is very little dedicated mental health support available for people and communities dealing with climate-related hazards and long-term risk ,” said Dr Maria Neira , Director of the Department of Environment , Climate Change and Health at the WHO , in a press release .
The WHO policy brief has recommended several approaches to deal with environmental anxiety such as investing more funds into mental health and psychological support while integrating climate considerations within mental health programmes .
Collective action , instead , can offer a sense of hope and social support that can be beneficial in beating back feelings of doom .
20 JULY 2022 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com