Climate crisis taking toll on mental health, landmark UN report warns

The climate crisis is adversely affecting mental health as extreme weather events cause trauma and livelihoods are lost, a landmark United Nations report has said.

This impact will worsen under further global warming, with children and adolescents particularly vulnerable to anxiety and stress as the world gets warmer, the international experts warned.

It marks the first time the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has spelled out a link between mental health and the climate crisis.

The new report by the world’s leading authority on climate science – published on Monday – focussed on the impacts of a warming world on people and nature.

It said the climate crisis had “adversely affected” mental health in regions looked at, as well as physical health around the world.

IPPC scientists said with “very high confidence” there were mental health challenges linked to trauma from weather and climate extreme events – which can include wildfires and flooding.

They were also highly confident higher temperatures, as well as the loss of livelihoods and culture, were having an impact too.

The landmark report said: “Mental health challenges, including anxiety and stress, are expected to increase under further global warming in all assessed regions, particularly for children, adolescents, elderly, and those with underlying health conditions.”

It suggested ways the world could act to reduce the risks to mental health posed by a changing climate, including improving surveillance and access to care.

The scientists also suggested better monitoring of “psychosocial impacts from extreme weather events”.

Earlier this year, the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) said mental health was a “growing concern” linked to the climate crisis, with research suggesting the risk of death for mental health patients increasing by five per cent for every 1C increase in temperature.

It also said people with mental health conditions “may be unable to self-care appropriately in extreme weather”.

Earlier this months, US experts found hot weather leaves more people in need of emergency mental health support and warned this problem will be exacerbated as the planet gets warmer.

Kathryn Bowen, one of the IPPC report’s lead authors, said there had been new evidence on the impact of the climate crisis on health and wellbeing since the group’s last assessment on the impacts of the climate crisis in 2014.

“We are also seeing cascading and compounding impacts where we see, for example, the fires in the black summer in Australia followed by floods and followed by other extreme events.”

She added:”This is particularly worrying, especially as we consider mental health issues, and we expect those impacts to increase with further global warming.”

The IPPC report – written by 270 authors from 67 countries – said extreme weather events have led to deaths and diseases, while there has been an increase in climate-related food-borne and water-borne diseases.