“This study paints a horrific picture of widespread climate anxiety in our children and young people,” added Hickman. “What more do governments need to hear to take action?”
Researchers from institutions around the world surveyed 10,000 young people in ten countries, including the UK.
Around 55 per cent of young people globally believed they would have fewer opportunities in life than their parents did, while nearly half said they had talked with others about climate change but felt ignored or dismissed.
Young people in the global south – set to be the earliest and worst hit by global warming – displayed the highest levels of climate anxiety.
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Portuguese youth were the worst impacted in the global north, which researchers linked to a dramatic increase in wildfires since 2017.
Beth Irving, a 19-year-old climate activist from Cardiff, organised her city’s climate youth strikes in 2019.
Responding to the findings, she said: “When I was 16, I went through phases of feeling utterly helpless in the face of this immense problem, and then would launch myself into organising protests or changing things within my school.
“To put so much energy into something and then see so little real life impact was exhausting.
“I had many occasions where I would hide myself away and think ‘none of this is enough’.”
Irving called on people in power to take “palpable” action. “It’s so damaging to put this problem on the shoulders of young people,” she said.
The study, under peer review in Lancet Planetary Health, investigated the psychological impact of an uncertain future on young people in the US, Australia, France, Portugal, Finland, Brazil, Nigeria, Philippines and India, as well as the UK.
“It’s shocking to hear how so many young people from around the world feel betrayed by those who are supposed to protect them,” said Dr Liz Marks, another co-lead author on the study.
“Now is the time to face the truth, listen to young people and take urgent action against climate change.”
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Governments could face a global youth mental health crisis as well as the climate emergency if they do not take bold action to protect the futures of young people, according to analysts. They warned that the current impact of climate inaction on mental wellbeing could potentially amount to a violation of international human rights law.
Recent research by UNICEF showed at least one billion children are being put at “extremely high risk” in the climate crisis.