Climate change linked to depression and anxiety in Canada

Climate change linked to depression and anxiety in Canada
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Climate change and related weather events have been linked to elevated rates of depression, anxiety, and pre-and-post-traumatic stress in Canada.

The “Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change”, an international research collaboration between 27 academic institutions and inter-governmental organisations, has released a report on the relationship between climate change and depression, anxiety, and stress disorders. It was developed with the Canadian Medical Association and Canadian Public Health Association.

The report states: “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, and tackling it could be our greatest health opportunity.”

Climate change in Canada

The report says that present changes in labour capacity, vector-borne disease and food security are an early warning of the overwhelming impacts if the temperature continues to rise. This is compounded by the lack of progress in reducing emissions. However, “despite these delays, trends in a number of sectors are breathing life in to the beginning of a low-carbon transition, and it is clear that the nature and scale of the response to climate change will be the determining factor in shaping the health of nations for centuries to come.”

The report points out that Canada is a circumpolar country and contains some of the most-rapidly warming areas in the world, despite its well-developed healthcare and public health system. The observed temperatures in Inuvik, Northwest Territories have increased by 3 degrees Celsius in the past 50 years.

How much anxiety is climate change causing?

The report added: “Research in Canada has particularly contributed to the evolution of concepts such as “solastalgia,” explained as ‘feeling homesick when you’re still at home,’ ecological grief and eco-anxiety”.

According to the report, the SOS-Summer of Smoke project “investigated the health and wellness impacts of a prolonged smoke and fire exposure in 2014.11 and one of its findings was a feeling of ecological grief or eco-anxiety, as participants placed the summer in the overall context of the changing climate and wondered if such summers would become the “new normal.”

Policy recommendations

Some of the report’s recommendations for climate change policymakers in Canada include:

  • Rapidly integrate climate change and health into all medical and health sciences facilities;
  • Increase the ambition in reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Phase out coal-powered electricity in Canada by 2030; and
  • Fund increased study into the mental health impacts of climate change.
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