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Anxiety is on the rise in the wake of heat dome, researchers say

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Researchers from the Mental Health and Climate Change Alliance say their study, published in the JJournal of Climate Change, is one of the first to demonstrate a direct link between weather events linked to climate change and mental health problems.

A white picket fence with rubble behind.

The heat was particularly strong in the vicinity of Lytton, a village destroyed by a violent forest fire which occurred during the summer of 2021.

Photo: The Canadian Press/DARRYL DYCK

The study is based on responses from 850 people over the age of 16 before and after the heat dome that claimed many lives and broke temperature records in British Columbia.

Conclusions of the study:

  • British Columbians’ average level of anxiety about climate change increased by 13% after the heat dome;
  • a majority of respondents said they were more (18.4%) or much more (40.1%) worried about climate change after the heat dome;
  • the number of people who said they thought their area would be devastated by climate change increased from 17.5% to 29.8% after the heat dome;
  • the number of people who believe the industry they work in will be affected by climate change rose from 35% to 40.3% after the heat dome;
  • most respondents said they were somewhat (40.8%) or greatly affected by the heat dome.
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Mental Health and Climate Change Alliance director Kiffer Card says the study looked at two of the biggest public health emergencies of the 21and century: mental health and climate change.

An anxious man is leaning against a young tree.

Is eco-anxiety the new evil of the century?

Photo: getty images/istockphoto / BrankoPhoto

Our work sends a clear message: the health of the planet and the health of individuals are one. »

A quote from Kiffer Card, Director, Alliance for Mental Health and Climate Change

Eco-anxiety

Climate change has been the subject of many studies, conferences and public discussions. For some people, they are the source of a deep discomfort called ecoanxiety : a phenomenon increasingly observed by scientists.

Some are anxious, no longer sleep, feel bad life, sadness or even anger at their own powerlessness and at the inaction of others in terms of global warming.

For others, this anxiety is so paralyzing that they dismiss anything about climate change. The result is total denial.

A woman in nature holds a container full of blueberries.

Amanda Suutari, a 54-year-old Vancouverite, says she feels a lot of anxiety, especially when she sees people who use drugs without thinking about the consequences.

Photo: Courtesy of Amanda S.

Amanda Suutari, a 54-year-old Vancouverite, says she’s always been a believer in sustainability and tries to live with as little impact on her environment as possible.

I feel great fear and sorrow for all innocent animals, the poorest people on the planet, children and young people, [qui sont] those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis, but will be most affected, explains Amanda.

I feel sorrow in advance for all the beauty and complexity on the planet…evolutionary wonders that took billions of years to create and will be decades away.

It’s easy for me to imagine the worst: resource shortages caused by climate change leading to chaos, violence… It’s beautiful to see how communities have helped each other in the aftermath of the fires and floods, but would this still be possible in a situation of severe shortages? »

A quote from Amanda Suutari

I also feel anger at the excesses of wealth and the fact that billionaires who could invest to change things choose to fly into space instead. [et] travel to luxurious resorts, also says Amanda Suutari.

Researchers say there is a need to monitor and study climate change anxiety on a regular basis to better understand the individual and collective effect of long-term climate change.

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