The Psychological Effects of Climate Change on Children

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2018 Apr 11;20(5):35. doi: 10.1007/s11920-018-0896-9.


Purpose of review: We review recent evidence on the psychological effects of climate change on children, covering both direct and indirect impacts, and discuss children's psychological adaptation to climate change.

Recent findings: Both the direct and flow-on effects of climate change place children at risk of mental health consequences including PTSD, depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, attachment disorders, and substance abuse. These in turn can lead to problems with emotion regulation, cognition, learning, behavior, language development, and academic performance. Together, these create predispositions to adverse adult mental health outcomes. Children also exhibit high levels of concern over climate change. Meaning-focused coping promotes well-being and environmental engagement. Both direct and indirect climate change impacts affect children's psychological well-being. Children in the developing world will suffer the worst impacts. Mental health professionals have important roles in helping mitigate climate change, and researching and implementing approaches to helping children cope with its impacts.

Keywords: Adolescents; Children; Climate change; Coping; Environmental engagement; Mental health; Psychological effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Child
  • Depression / etiology
  • Emotions
  • Global Warming* / prevention & control
  • Global Warming* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mental Health / trends
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*