National News

How do you feel about climate change? Researchers want to know

Does cutting your contribution to climate change also improve your mental health? Researchers want to know how you’re dealing with eco-anxiety.

The public health scientists – from Melbourne’s Deakin and Monash universities – are exploring how bad news about the environment brings us down and whether taking even small actions on climate change boosts our mental health.

To find out, they are asking people to take a survey which aims to understand the mental health impacts of climate change.

“The suite of feelings sometimes called ‘climate grief’ is very real, and psychologists around the world expect it to become much more common over the next few years,” says lead researcher Dr Rebecca Patrick from Deakin University.

“We want to see how widespread it is now and who it affects – and whether taking concrete action to reduce your own contribution to global heating or taking action with others can also improve mental health.”

Climate grief is expressed through a range of symptoms tied to concerns about the future of the world. These include anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, dizziness and feelings of powerlessness.

It’s just one of the themes explored during the ABC’s Your Planet season of stories about the climate challenge.

To date, more than 24,800 people have signed up to Carbon Counter, the online project curated by ABC Science and launched during National Science Week in August. So far, visitors to the Carbon Counter website have pledged to save 17,500 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of taking 4,760 cars off the road for a whole year.

“While these actions are good for the planet, we’re keen to find out whether they also make people feel better in themselves,” says Rhonda Garad from Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation.

“People are dealing with difficult daily news about coronavirus cases and job losses, wildfires in California, and other stressful information. We want to understand how people are coping so that we can better prepare people mentally and emotionally for future climate change.”

Rebecca, Rhonda and colleagues’ survey is called Climate Change and Mental Health: Australian Temperature Check. It is open to all people over the age of 18, and participants remain anonymous.

The survey can be found here: www.deakin.edu.au/tempcheck.

This study has received Deakin University ethics approval (Ref No: 2020-224)

Visit the ABC Your Planet website at www.abc.net.au/your-planet  and join the Carbon Counter challenge at www.abc.net.au/carboncounter.

X