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Survey finds Gen Z climate anxiety is extremely prevalent

New research by the Curtin University shows that young people in Australia have significant, life-impacting concerns about the state of the climate.

Climate anxiety amongst Gen Zers is at an all-time-high.

A new study by Curtin University has found that Australian young people have drastic concerns about the climate crisis, so much so that it is impacting their lives and may have wider consequences in their long-term futures.

Part of Sustainable Earth Reviews, the study surveyed 446 Australian university students and was conducted between September 2021 and April 2022. More than 80% of those who were asked said they were ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about the climate crisis.

We’ve written before about climate anxiety and its increased prevalence with younger generations. It’s become such a common issue that a full-fledged market has emerged to help ease everyday mental health relating to climate change.

Products such as feed-altering Google extensions and apps like Earth Hero that track and calculate your carbon footprint promise to help young people get a handle on a problem that feels existential and beyond our individual control.

All that’s well and good, but what is climate anxiety?

Climate anxiety is when worries about the planet’s health develop into overwhelming distress and intrusive, upsetting thoughts. It can translate into feelings of insecurity, anger, fear, and exhaustion.

Dora Marinova, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University, said that Gen Z’s climate anxiety was a major contributing factor toward their overall unease toward the future.

‘These young people are very concerned and, in a way, intimidated by the lack of concrete action being taken to battle climate change.’

‘[Their] concerns will not only impact their mental health […] but also the choices young people make: how they spend their money, whether they have families, their of career, and more.’

Despite the majority of young people feeling extremely concerned, this isn’t translating into tangible action. In fact, only 35% of those asked said they engaged in traditional climate activism like fundraising, donating money, supporting political campaigns, or participating in marches or protests.

Instead, many Gen Zers use social media to voice their concerns and inform themselves.

Diana Bogueva, a researcher at Curtin University, advised that young people should consider participating in traditional activism to more effectively create tangible change.

While online conversation is important, and climate change is not solely Gen Zs responsibility to fix, a focus toward mainstream activism could help better alleviate worries and boost networking opportunities for likeminded young people.

‘This can include finding out how they can be part of the solution in their personal lives, whether it’s choosing a career which has an impact of adjusting the products or food they consume,’ she said.

‘While the challenges of climate change can be scary, it is not too late for Gen Z to make a difference fighting for a sustainable future.’

It’s hardly shocking that young people are feeling somewhat hopeless about our climate future. Constant empty promises, false starts, delayed negotiations, and stunted progress has left many feeling apathetic.

Even COP28 was a bit of a sham last year.

We wrote an eight part series on the pitfalls of greenwashing and climate promises last year, which you can check out here.

Unless we see sizeable change in real-terms soon, climate anxiety is likely to increase even further as younger people take on the responsibility of a global problem they didn’t cause.