Is climate change hurting teen mental health?
Athabasca University researcher Dr. Gina Martin leads study of Canadian youth
A new national study will explore the impact of climate change on the mental health of Canadian teens.
As the climate changes, there will be widespread environmental, social, and economic impacts from rising temperatures to extreme weather events. Athabasca University researcher Dr. Gina Martin said teens are 1 of the groups most vulnerable to these effects.
“Young people are going to experience more climate-related risks due to climate change than previous generations,” she said.
“Young people are going to experience more climate-related risks due to climate change than previous generations.”– Dr. Gina Martin, study lead
Climate change and Canadian teens
Martin, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, is leading a national survey of Canadian teens aged 13 to 18.
Though the research is still ongoing, the team has conducted focus groups with teens to gauge their awareness of climate change, how it impacts their mental well-being, and where they turn for support.
“Young people are at a really important phase of development. So they’re going through a lot of developmental changes physically, but also socially, and learning about their place in the world,” she said. “Trying to do that in the backdrop of the climate crisis can be very destabilizing, and can make it difficult in terms of thinking about their future and what that might look like.”
Research to inform mental health supports
The study has already found that teens want information they know and trust.
The research has implications for policymakers and educators. Martin hopes this study will lead to further research and targeted support for young people facing challenges due to climate change.
“What we’re hoping is that we’ll be able to support them to take action if they want—or do whatever it is that is meaningful to them while also not sacrificing their own individual well-being in the process.”