Climate Change is Making You Depressed (But Not for Obvious Reasons)

Climate Change is Making You Depressed (But Not for Obvious Reasons)

Climate change is a major bummer. Already, the warming planet is wreaking havoc around the world in the form of natural disasters, environmental contamination, ocean acidification and, oh yeah, almost zero fresh water for us to drink or bathe in. Plus, the thought of a planet without polar bears, as terrifying as they are, is enough to make anyone with a heart (not you, Donald Trump!) rather melancholy, if not downright weepy.

Even leading climate scientists and experts are struggling with depression over this looming doom, as Grist recently reported. The data alone are staggering enough to make anyone feel hopeless about all the human-inflicted damage to the planet; and the fact that, despite the mounting scientific evidence, there’s still so much resistance and denial about climate change around the world, also takes a pretty hefty toll on researchers and those among us who understand the gravity of the situation.

But the fun doesn’t stop there.

Scientists say our moods are more tied to the environment than we may realize. “We’ve totally misunderstood our connection to the natural world,” Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, a Canada Research Chair at Cape Breton University told The Tyee. Cunsolo is looking at how rising global temperatures affect the mental well-being of Canada’s Inuit: “Very few people are going to be untouched,” she says. Other studies point to the benefits nature has in boosting our moods, and with climate change threatening to wipe out many of our favorite nature spots, it’s no surprise this will have lasting effects on our psyche.

“Our psyches may in fact remain deeply vulnerable to environmental change,” Geoff Dembicki wrote in The Tyee. “After Hurricane Katrina, for instance, Harvard researchers found the rate of ‘serious mental illness’ among survivors to be double that of the general population.”

If a warming planet makes us depressed, and climate scientists become too depressed to do anything about it, this doesn’t bode well for the future of humanity. “Look to Australia, where 25 percent of kids ‘honestly believe [the world] will come to an end before they get older,'” reports Dembicki.

While the world is not likely to come to an end anytime soon, those of us who call it home (including Donald Trump and fierce polar bears), might soon find ourselves reconciling with a stark new set of nature-compromised circumstances. It ain’t gonna be pretty, the experts warn, and the slow build-up means increasing cases of depression along the way to what could be the total collapse of humankind. Pass the Prozac. The good news, however—if there really is any—is that we may be so busy dealing with climate change-inflicted natural disasters that we may not have enough time to lay around on the couch feeling blue. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

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Polar bear image via Shutterstock

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.