SFU researcher publishes first study on effects of climate change on mental health

PHOTO: James Day/Unsplash

By: Nathaniel Tok, Peak Associate

Assistant Professor of Health Sciences at SFU Map of Kiffer and a team of health and psychology researchers from Mental The Health and Climate Change Alliance recently concluded a study outlining the effects of climate change on the mental health of British Columbians. first of its kind in British Columbia to examine how climate change, in particular heated dome in 2021, contributed to increased worry, anxiety and distress among British Columbians.

The top contacted Card to find out more.

“Our study is among the first to investigate these worries using a natural experiment and scientifically validated measures of anxiety,” Card said. “We find that people’s mental health is directly affected by changing landscapes and natural environments.”

In 2021, the research team job an online questionnaire for British Columbians over the age of 16. 850 participants completed the questionnaire before and after the heating dome so that the researchers could see how the heating dome affected their perceptions of climate change.

“Most British Columbians were impacted by the 2021 heat dome, most agreed the heat dome made them more worried about climate change,” Card said. “The average level of climate anxiety in British Columbia has increased by about 13 percent.”

Card thinks this research helps verify the idea that planetary health and personal health are linked. On the other hand, there is concern about whether the mental health system can support the growing number of British Columbians suffering from climate anxiety.

He points out that climate change anxiety can affect people’s livelihoods. “Concerns about climate change are influencing where people want to live, the jobs and industries they work in, whether they want to have children, and how they will care for loved ones.”

The research team continues to monitor other climate events to see how they affect people in different parts of British Columbia and if a cumulative and long-lasting effect on mental health is present.

The researchers hope that their work to raise awareness of climate change and that it is a current and important determinant of health, rather than something to be postponed. Card believes there is a need for more investment in mental health support and in work to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

“We’ve heard for years that climate change is the most pressing public health crisis we face today.” The card concludes. “Cities, provinces and government should invest in mental health care. They should look for ways to address the worries and concerns of their citizens about climate change.

For those interested in learning more, Card’s research is published in the Newspaper climate change and health.

Teresa H. Sadler