Many young Canadians think Canada is doomed: Lakehead survey

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A pair of Lakehead University researchers recently published an article describing the emotions and anxiety experienced by young Canadians due to climate change.

Dr. Lindsay Galway, Associate Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at Lakehead Thunder Bay, and Dr. Ellen Field, Assistant Professor in Education at Lakehead Orillia, surveyed a thousand Canadians in the 16 to 25 age group.

Their ScienceDirect article describes some interesting responses.

Nearly half (48 per cent) think humanity is doomed. Seventy-three per cent find the future frightening.

Seventy-six per cent think people have failed to take care of the planet, while 39 per cent are hesitant to have children.

Seventy-one per cent of respondents felt angry about the Canadian government’s response to climate change – and 69 per cent felt abandoned.

Six in 10 young people believe the formal education system should do more to teach them about climate change. Seventy-eight per cent reported that climate change impacts their overall mental health.

Four in 10 Canadians said their feelings about climate change negatively affect their daily life.

Despite all of those feelings, many respondents have hope that it’s not too late to slow down global warming. Seventy-one per cent of respondents believe that together we can do something. Half of these young Canadians believe they can contribute.

“This research shows that inaction at the systemic and structural levels shapes the experiences of climate emotions and anxiety among young people across Canada,” Dr. Galway said.

“While we consider difficult climate emotions and anxiety appropriate responses to the climate crisis, given its impacts, scale and urgency, we also recognize the mental and emotional burden that young people are bearing.

“To address difficult climate emotions, there needs to be strong leadership as well as supports and programs put in place to enable young people to cope with climate-related distress, foster emotional resiliency, and prevent harm. Most importantly, to protect the mental and emotional health of young people, transformative climate action is needed,” Dr. Galway said.

For this study, the researchers wanted to replicate the Hickman et al. 2021 study on youth climate anxiety to collect Canadian data.

“We also wanted to expand the research and ask young people to identify coping supports that they think are needed,” Dr. Field said.

“Responses resulted in a diversity of strategies, including the need for youth-focused support groups, more opportunities for young people to engage in climate action, and improving climate change education in schools. This really is an all-hands-on-deck moment for adults and a time for intergenerational work.”

The researchers thanked the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canada Research Chair program for supporting this work.

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