Climate anxiety is an aspect of the wider phenomenon of eco-anxiety: it encompasses challenging emotions, experienced to a significant degree, due to environmental issues and the threats they pose. On a wider scale, both eco-anxiety and climate anxiety are components of a phenomenon, in which the state of the world (i.e., the so-called macro social factors) impacts our mental health. 

Climate anxiety can be a problem if it is so intense that a person may come paralysed, but climate anxiety is not primarily a disease. Instead it is an understandable reaction to the magnitude of the environmental problems that surround us. Climate anxiety can often be an important resource as well, but this entails that a person finds, along with others, a) enough time and space to deal with their emotions and b) enough constructive activity to help mitigate climate change.

The report places climate anxiety as one of the health effects of climate change (Chapter 2). Two central psychological challenges and tasks (Chapter 3) are a) adjusting to changing circumstances, i.e., remaining functional, and b) accepting one’s own ethical responsibility and keeping a healthy perspective, i.e., living with ambivalence. The report publishes, for the first time in Finnish, a review of the various symptoms of climate anxiety, with reference to international studies (Chapter 4). The symptoms can be placed on a scale of the mildest to the most severe and they can also manifest as psychophysical symptoms. What makes identifying the symptoms more difficult is that they are multidimensional (climate change impacts almost everything). Social pressures that relate to climate change also influence this.

Chapter 5 deals with vulnerabilities and the role of social context when coping with climate change. The chapter includes a list of people who are especially vulnerable and life situations that create vulnerabilities. Some of these groups of people identify with climate anxiety (e.g., young people) and some (e.g., farmers) experience symptoms relating to the phenomenon but call it something else.

The sixth chapter raises the issue of the importance of experiencing that life is meaningful, when dealing with climate anxiety (meaning-focused coping, existential well-being). Chapter 7 discusses the various emotions, such as sadness, fear and guilt, which may possibly relate to climate anxiety. Climate anxiety can also be approached from the perspective of shock and trauma. Emotional skills and mental health skills can help when dealing with climate anxiety. The report also emphasizes that strong emotions can be a powerful resource.

Chapter 8 offers an extensive overview of the various initiatives and resource materials, that have been developed in the last few years to deal with climate anxiety, both internationally and in Finland. The focus is on third sector initiatives. Basic formats include a) self-help and support materials, b) group activities, c) events and d) peer support. The report takes a broad look at the resources and initiatives created in, e.g., Australia and the United Kingdom. In addition to psychologist organizations’ initiatives, those created by environmental organizations, eco-psychologists, artists and environmental educators are also discussed.

Reference information


Pihkala, Panu. 2019. Climate Anxiety. Helsinki: MIELI Mental Health Finland.

MIELI Mental Health Finland

Published in Climate-ADAPT May 17, 2021   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Apr 4, 2024

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