Climate emergency likely to affect mental health, poll finds

More than four-fifths of the UK public think the climate and ecological emergencies will affect mental health in a decade at least as much as unemployment and coronavirus.

New research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found that 60 per cent of respondents say that the climate and ecological emergencies are affecting their mental health now and will continue to do so in the future. As many as 84 per cent think the climate and ecological emergencies will affect mental health in a decade at least as much as unemployment (83 per cent) and coronavirus (84 per cent).

The college also found that many appear unaware that the climate and ecological emergencies were a contributing factor to the global outbreak of coronavirus. Just one fifth (22 per cent) think so, whereas two fifths (40 per cent) do not, although a significant minority say ‘maybe’ (29 per cent).

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for international cooperation and urgent action by declaring a climate and ecological emergency. The declaration is supported by a statement with recommendations for psychiatrists, the NHS, research institutes and government to tackle the crisis and promote more sustainable clinical practices.  

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The disruption to life posed by the climate and ecological emergencies presents an unprecedented threat to our health in the UK and worldwide. The climate and ecological emergency is a mental health emergency. Our mental health is entwined with the health of our natural world. We have no choice but to join the voices of those who are calling for urgent action and declare a climate and ecological emergency to avert a health and mental health catastrophe.”

The college says that the ramifications of climate and ecological emergencies are increasingly noticeable in the UK. Flooding which is associated with anxiety, depression and PTSD in survivors is the most common disaster in the UK. Due to climate change, floods are increasing in frequency and severity. Furthermore, between 28,000-36,000 deaths a year in the UK, are due to air pollution exposure, while research points to the link between childhood exposure and mental illness in adulthood.

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