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“Mom, I had a bad dream about climate change.” Eco-anxiety, 95 percent of Italian children between 5 and 11 years old suffer from it

More and more research shows how events caused by climate change also have a significant impact on mental health. We talk about eco-anxiety, term which has now become part of our vocabulary and which is used to indicate that feeling of concern about threats to the environment, such as pollution and climate change, precisely. A concern that would seem to concern many adults but that he wouldn’t even spare the children. A recent one proves it Italian study, born in the context of the educational project of Scholastic Onlus At Water School supported by the Sanpellegrino Group, which involved a sample of around 1000 children between 5 and 11 years old.

From what emerged, in fact, the 95% of girls and boys interviewees declare themselves concerned about the future of the environment. Not only, more than one in 3 (40%) reports of having had a bad dream about climate change or about the environment in danger and of having done struggle to sleep or eat because of this thought. Worry, sadness, anger would be the most common emotions associated by children with anxiety on the future of the planet.

The research, conducted under the scientific supervision of Health Psychology Laboratory of the Department of Nervous System and Behavioral Sciences of theUniversity of Paviahowever, also highlighted something else significant data and encouraging: despite the state of marked concern, children feel closely connected to the environment (in 78% of cases) and their approach to the phenomenon of climate change it is not passive but, on the contrary, characterized by a strong sense of responsibility and motivation to act.

There almost all of the sample examined (95.6%) in fact it is perceived directly responsible for the situation and think that your contribution can make a difference (97.2%). How to change things? Also in this regard the children show that they have clear ideas: the solution would in fact be found in participation of everyone, including adults, in which the trust of 72% of the little ones, convinced that everyone should actively contribute to the health of the Planet.

The impact of climate change on mental health

To understand how i climate change affects mental healthinternational research stands out today three different impacts: direct, indirect and vicarious. So far, much of the scientific research has focused attention on direct impacts, that is, those who manifest themselves after extreme climatic events, such as floods, earthquakes or hurricanes. However, more and more people they are experiencing a sense of anguish linked to the global climate crisis even without being directly or indirectly affected. Data that also emerges in the ScuolAttiva study: ecoanxiety in children in fact, it is not necessarily related to real lived experiencesbut rather it is fruit of communication and information on the issues of climate change which influence the perception of the problem by the little ones.

In other words, just know the consequences of climate change through i average He can have an impact on mental health.

«Witnessing the consequences of climate change can generate suffering and worries about the futuretogether with a sense of impotence and frustration at the inability to stop this phenomenon or make a difference”, underlines the professor Serena Barello, director of the Health Psychology laboratory of the Department of Nervous System and Behavioral Sciences of the University of Pavia, scientific coordinator of the study. «This is why it becomes increasingly necessary invest in training and awareness initiatives that promote the empowerment of citizensie, especially of new generations, regarding the value of the behavior of each of us in combating the effects of climate change. This can protect people from experiencing eco-anxiety, which is obviously not a pathology but it nevertheless represents a risk factor for mental health disorders. It is in fact a stress factor that can push individuals to react to anxiety by changing not only their daily behavior, but also their perspective on the world and expectations for the future.”

And the teachers?

Researchwhich underlines the importance of actively involving new generations in protecting the environment and combating climate change, also examined the teachers’ thoughts. The data coming from five hundred teachers they follow in general those provided by the boys, with some major notes though pessimism. For example, the sense of efficacy in personally addressing environmental challenges turns out to be strong only in one in 10 people. Furthermore, unlike a large majority of children who say they trust adults to manage the climate and environmental challenge, only 2 out of 10 teachers say they trust the institutions in this sense. However, the majority believes in value of educational initiatives tended to increase people’s sensitivity on theimportance of one’s contribution individual in order to combat environmental challenges.

Research on eco-anxiety in children

That the new generations are more aware about climate change but also more vulnerable to negative effects that this awareness produces, it is now a fact, proven by various scientific research.

Among the largest studies on the topic, that multicenter published in 2021 in the prestigious magazine The Lancet. The research, which investigated the phenomenon of eco-anxiety in young people between 16 and 25 years old, involved thousands of young people from ten countries around the world (Australia, Brazil, Philippines, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, Portugal, United Kingdom, United States). The result? From what emerged the 59% of the kids interviewed defined themselves as ‘very or extremely worried’ for climate change, one percentage that rises to 84% if we also consider those who have declared themselves ‘moderately concerned’. Not only that, the study, defined by The Guardian as the most extensive ever published on young people and climate change anxiety, it highlighted how for almost half of the kids interviewed (45%) climate anxiety affects every aspect of everyday life and what more of 50% of those interviewed report feeling emotions such as sadness and anger.

-Study conducted by the Health Psychology Laboratory of the Department of Nervous System and Behavioral Sciences of the University of Pavia.
-2021 multi-center study on The Lancet.
-Professor Serena Barello, director of the Health Psychology laboratory of the Department of Nervous System and Behavioral Sciences of the University of Pavia.

Source: Vanity Fair

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