In recent years, climate anxiety has increasingly gained prominence in global concerns, a clear sign of increasing climate change and its impacts on society. Research conducted by Google and shared exclusively with BBC 100 Women reveals a significant increase in online searches related to climate anxiety.
According to a recent article published on the BBC website, online search queries on ‘climate anxiety’ have experienced a significant increase, with a particular focus on the gender gap. Studies suggest that women are more affected by this form of anxiety than men.
The world is witnessing extreme weather events, such as fires, floods and droughts, which are visible signs of climate change. However, what often goes unnoticed is the psychological impact of these events on human mental health.
Climate anxiety, defined as a feeling of distress over the impacts of climate change, is emerging as a global concern, especially among young people and children.
Google Trends data indicate a significant increase in searches on ‘climate anxiety’ in the first 10 months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2017. Queries in English are even 27 times higher, revealing a growing interest in this topic.
This increase in interest is not limited to the English language. Searches in Portuguese grew 73-fold, while queries in Chinese (simplified) and Arabic saw an increase of eight and a half times and one fifth, respectively.
Google Trends data aggregate searches for ‘climate anxiety’ and ‘eco-anxiety’, terms often used interchangeably but with slightly different shades of meaning.
Climate Anxiety and Eco Anxiety
Climate anxiety is specifically related to awareness of climate change, while eco-anxiety is more general, associated with threats to environmental health, such as pollution and loss of biodiversity.
It should be noted that the search interest ranking does not measure the total volume of searches, but analyses a sample to identify global trends over time. This approach makes it possible to assess the relative popularity of search queries.
The Nordic countries, including Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, accounted for more than 40% of global queries on ‘climate anxiety’ over the past five years. Google states that the data are adequate to take into account differences in the size of populations, ensuring a fair evaluation even for countries with different search volumes.
However, despite widespread interest, countries in the global South, such as Chile, the Philippines and South Africa, showed lower shares of search queries. It should be noted that the analysis excludes countries with particularly low search volumes.
Climate anxiety is thus not only an environmental concern, but also a topic of growing global interest and discussion, with online searches reflecting the urgency of addressing climate challenges to ensure a sustainable future.
Climate anxiety: symptoms
Eco-anxiety is a term used to describe anxiety and stress related to environmental concerns and climate change. While it is not considered an officially recognised clinical disorder, many people experience anxiety symptoms related to environmental issues. Here are some of the symptoms that can be associated with climate anxiety:
- Constant worry: People with eco-anxiety may have a constant worry about environmental problems, such as global warming, loss of biodiversity, pollution and other negative impacts on the environment.
- Sense of helplessness: Awareness of the enormous environmental problems can generate a sense of helplessness and frustration. The feeling that individual actions can have little impact on change can contribute to stress.
- Anxiety about the future: The prospect of a future in which environmental impacts worsen can cause anxiety about what fate holds for future generations.
- Feelings of guilt: Some people may experience feelings of guilt related to their daily actions that may contribute to environmental degradation, even if indirectly.
- Sleep disorders: Anxiety can affect sleep, causing difficulty falling asleep or maintaining a restful sleep.
- Physical symptoms: Echo-anxiety may also manifest itself through physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, gastrointestinal complaints or other stress-related symptoms.
- Social isolation: Some people may feel the need to isolate themselves socially because of anxiety related to environmental issues. The difficulty in sharing these concerns with others may contribute to isolation.
- Changes in behaviour: eco-anxiety could influence daily behaviour, leading to food, purchasing and lifestyle choices aimed at reducing environmental impact.
It is important to note that echo-anxiety can vary in intensity from person to person. If symptoms become particularly debilitating or persistent, it is advisable to seek support from mental health professionals such as psychologists or psychiatrists.
The management of eco-anxiety may involve participation in support communities and, if necessary, psychotherapeutic support.