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Climate change could affect mental health in a decade, says survey

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said the disruption to life posed by ecological emergencies presents a threat to our health.

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Climate change will affect people’s mental health in 10 years’ time just as much as unemployment or pandemics, a poll suggests.

The survey of 2,093 adults in the UK, for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, found that 84% think climate and ecological emergencies will affect mental health in a decade at least as much as unemployment (83%) or a pandemic (84%).

Some 60% said climate issues are affecting their mental health now and will continue to do so in the future.

However, the poll found that a proportion of people do not believe that climate change may have been a contributing factor in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “The disruption to life posed by the climate and ecological emergencies presents an unprecedented threat to our health in the UK and worldwide.

“The climate and ecological emergency is a mental health emergency. Our mental health is entwined with the health of our natural world.

“We have no choice but to join the voices of those who are calling for urgent action and declare a climate and ecological emergency to avert a health and mental health catastrophe.”

The college said issues such as severe storms, floods, air pollution, wildfires and droughts affected health, while food insecurity and loss of habitats are changing lives.

And it said between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths per year in the UK are due to exposure to air pollution.

Dr Lisa Page, associate registrar for sustainability of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The knock-on effects of climate change and biodiversity loss will be felt on people’s mental health.

“If action isn’t taken, the physical and psychological consequences will manifest in poorer health outcomes in the UK and overseas.”

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