Threat of climate change found to be key psychological and emotional stressor

Posted on April 8, 2016

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Climate change is a significant threat to the health of Americans, creating unprecedented health problems in areas where they might not have previously occurred, according to a report released April 4 by the White House.

The report, "The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment," was developed by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and outlines the impacts climate change has on human health, including mental health and well-being.

The threat of climate change has been found to be a key psychological and emotional stressor, and consequences can range from minimal stress and distress to clinical disorders, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal thoughts, according to the report.

Messages from the media as well as public communication about climate change, can affect perceptions of physical and societal risks, consequently affecting mental health and well-being, for example. An estimated 40 percent of Americans report hearing about climate change in the media at least once a month, and about half of Americans reported being worried about climate change in 2015, according to a survey, the report states. In more extreme cases, such as natural disasters causing injuries and deaths, damaged homes and communities, individuals may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, grief, and depression. All of these reactions have the potential to interfere with the individual's functioning and well-being, according to the report. The majority of affected people recover over time, although some will develop chronic psychological problems, according to the report.


Source material from Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU)

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