Mental Health Awareness Week: Climate anxiety rocketing, green space helps

A recent study by Woodland Trust has identified a sharp uptick in environmentally-driven stress among 16-24 year olds.

man in orange long sleeve shirt sitting on gray couch

Seven-in-ten young people are worried about climate change and its effects, and almost one-in-four, or 24%, say they are willing to consider not having children or having fewer than they would otherwise like in order to be more ‘climate positive’. The study also found that 86% of respondents felt better, and reported on improved mental wellbeing, after spending time outside in nature.

The numbers back up another recent investigation, conducted by leisure operator Better. Taking into account feedback from more than 2,000 people, the company found that those living closest to blue or green spaces – for example, a swimming pool, lake or park – experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression. Unsurprisingly, then, eight-in-ten agree that more should be done to protect blue and green spaces.

Conversely, the UK has one of Europe’s lowest tree cover, at just over 13% of the landmass, with just 7% of woodland in good condition. Access to these areas is also in sharp decline, with just 16.2% of people in the able to reach at least two hectares of green space within 500m of their home – down from 21.1% since 2016.

‘Young people are experiencing an epidemic of climate anxiety and are increasingly worried about the health of the planet. This new data shows that climate change is jeopardising more than just the environment, with people’s mental well-being and future life plans also affected,’ said Dr Darren Moorcroft, Chief Executive of Woodland Trust. ‘We know that being outdoors and among nature has a positive effect on mental health – but the level of access to green space in the UK is simply not good enough.’

‘I suffer from anxiety but the Young People’s Forest has contributed massively towards the transformation of my confidence,” added Elyse White, a 22-year-old working for the Woodland Trust as a Forest Engagement and Environmental Assistant at the 400-acre, youth-led Young People’s Forest in Derbyshire. ‘I turned to the environment and nature for comfort and distraction; this habit led to a life-changing therapy.’

More on climate anxiety: 

Why climate anxiety may not be anxiety at all

Image: Joice Kelly






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