ECO-ANXIETY STUDY: CHILDREN ARE LOSING SLEEP & BAD DREAMS OVER ‘CLIMATE CHANGE’
By Sarah Young
A growing number of children are being affected by eco-anxiety – concern about ecological disasters – new research suggests.
The poll showed that young people are feeling frustrated and anxious about the state of the planet with 80 per cent saying the problem of climate change was important to them, and more than a third saying it was very important.
Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) added that they were worried about the state of the planet right now, including 22 per cent who say they were “very worried”.
When asked about their futures, almost three in five (58 per cent) children said that they are concerned about the impact that climate change will have on their lives, with many admitting these worries often come out in unusual ways.
Nearly one in five (19 per cent) of the children surveyed admitted to having a bad dream about the climate crisis, while 17 per cent said they have had their sleeping and eating habits affected by their concerns.
When questioned about the action being taken by grown-ups to tackle the problem, a large number of children said they feel frustrated about the progress being made.
More than half (59 per cent) of participants said they don’t think their voices are being heard on climate change, while nearly two thirds (64 per cent) don’t believe people in power are listening to them enough when they do talk about it.
What’s more, 41 per cent said they don’t trust adults to tackle the challenges that climate change presents.
Emma Citron, a consultant clinical child psychologist, said that young people often find it difficult to come to terms with the scale of the problem of climate changes and what often seems like a lack of response shown by governments and world leaders.
“Public figures like David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg have helped young people to voice their worries and we have to make sure that we as adults listen to them and empower them by giving talks at school and in their communities to help them become involved in positive change,” Citron said.
“We all need to support them not to feel hopeless but rather to present to them hopeful and balanced messages about their futures and ensure that they get the right professional help if their anxiety is unduly high.”
Speaking of the results of the survey, Paul Plunkett, editor at BBC Newsround, said it is clear that children are “passionate about protecting the planet”.
“The climate strikes in 2019 showed their determination to make their voices heard on environmental issues,” Plunkett said,
”The question the survey raises for parents and adults is how to show young people that, as a society, we are committed to addressing the challenges raised by climate change, because this survey suggests that at the moment – they aren’t convinced we are.“
In 2019, Caroline Hickman, a leading psychotherapist from the University of Bath, issued a warning of rising levels of eco-anxiety among young people.
Based on her research talking to children about their feelings about climate change, Hickman argued that young voices pressing for urgent change could act as a rallying cry to politicians around the world.
“Talking to children about climate change gives a fresh perspective on the absurdity of doing so little about the climate emergency and also highlights for young people the troubling disconnect between what politicians say and what they do,” she explained, adding that children bear the emotional burden of climate change “much more courageously” than adults.
“We owe it to them to share it,” she continued.
“We all need to do more to listen to young people when they talk about climate change. Through their experiences we’ll all learn more about how we should take responsibility for the mess, apologise and start to act.”