The climate crisis will take a far greater toll on our mental health if COP26 fails to deliver, says RCPsych

Press release
28 October 2021
  • Three in five (60%) people say concerns about climate and ecological emergencies are affecting their mental health
  • Over half (55%) of people agree that climate change poses a threat to the mental health of future generations
  • Almost three in five (59%) 18-34-year-olds agree that failure to act on climate change will become a growing mental health problem

Three in five (60%) people say concerns about climate and ecological emergencies are affecting their mental health, new research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found.

Over half (55%) agree that climate change poses a threat to the mental health of future generations. Young people are especially worried about the consequences of failure at COP26. Almost three in five (59%) 18-34-year-olds agree that failure to act on climate change will become a growing mental health problem.

Given the impact of climate worries on our mental health, it is not surprising that the public supports the need for strong action at the global summit. Almost three in four (72%) people agree that we need global action to tackle the consequences of climate change.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“Our mental and physical health is inextricably linked with the health of the natural world. The climate and ecological emergency is a mental health emergency.

“The public is right to be worried about the future of our planet. For many people, these worries are affecting their mental health and so understandably they want to see action being taken.

“Governments around the world must step up, take responsibility and deliver serious action at COP26 to put the planet on a healthier and more sustainable trajectory”.

Extreme weather, air pollution and biodiversity loss are having a profoundly destructive impact on human and planetary health. This crisis is exacerbating inequalities as those who are already disadvantaged, including people with a mental illness or disability, are often most affected.

The College has been granted formal ‘observer’ status at the COP26 summit where it will be holding leaders to account and highlighting the impact of the climate crisis on mental health.

Earlier this year the Royal College of Psychiatrists declared a climate and ecological emergency and published a comprehensive Position Statement calling for urgent action and international cooperation.

Over half (57%) of child and adolescent psychiatrists in England are seeing children and young people distressed about the climate crisis, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ survey carried out last year. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has published resources to support young people and their parents to manage anxiety and fears about the environment.

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