Bath Uni study: Nearly 60% of young people 'very' or 'extremely' worried about climate change

A study at Bath University surveyed 10,000 people aged 16 to 25 across 10 countries about their views on climate change.

Nearly 60% of young people are 'very' or 'extremely worried' about climate change while almost half say climate anxiety affects their daily life, according to a new study.

The University of Bath surveyed 10,000 young people across ten countries and found that three quarters (75%) believe the future is 'frightening'.

The inaugural study looked at the views of those aged 16 to 25 and found that climate anxiety and stress is significantly related to perceived government inaction and associated feelings of betrayal. 

The work is the largest scientific study into climate anxiety in young people. It's led experts to warn that as continued government inaction on climate change is psychologically damaging, it potentially amounts to a violation of international human rights law.

Caroline Hickman, from the University of Bath, Climate Psychology Alliance and co-lead author on the study said: “This study paints a horrific picture of widespread climate anxiety in our children and young people.

"It suggests for the first time that high levels of psychological distress in youth is linked to government inaction.

"What more do governments need to hear to take action?”

The key findings:

  • 59% of children and young people surveyed were very or extremely worried about climate change

  • More than half of respondents said they had felt afraid, sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and/or guilty

  • 55% of respondents felt they would have fewer opportunities than their parents

  • 65% felt governments were failing young people

  • 61% said the way governments deal with climate change was not “protecting me, the planet and/or future generations”

  • Almost half (48%) of those who said they talked with others about climate change felt ignored or dismissed

  • Young people in the Global South expressed more worry and said this had a greater impact on them functioning - but those in Portugal expressed the most worry in the Global North

The study's conclusion is that governments must respond to 'protect the mental health of children and young people by engaging in ethical, collective, policy-based action against climate change.'

Its results follow a report into the physical threat climate change poses to children, released by UNICEF. This suggested one billion children are at ‘extremely high risk’ of the impacts of the climate crisis.

The ten countries surveyed were the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Finland, Portugal, Brazil and France.