Mental Health And Climate Change

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Mental health conditions have a direct correlation with climate change. Climate-induced immobility has significant and far-reaching effects on the mental health of individuals, communities, and society. Climate-induced immobility, also known as “climate refugees,” refers to individuals forced to leave their homes due to extreme weather conditions and natural disasters caused by climate change. This displacement affects not only their physical mobility but also their mental health.

The stress and trauma associated with losing one’s home and community can have long-lasting effects on a person’s mental well-being. Climate refugees often face a lack of resources and support, leading to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. This can result in depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, the constant uncertainty and insecurity of not knowing where they will live next or how they will provide for themselves and their families can exacerbate their mental health problems. Furthermore, the process of adaptation to a new environment can also be challenging. Climate refugees may face language barriers, cultural differences, and discrimination in their new communities, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. They may also struggle to find employment, housing, and access to healthcare, adding to their stress levels.

Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, and this vulnerability is affecting the mental health of its population in several ways. Studies have shown that the impacts of climate change, such as floods and sea-level rise, can have significant negative impacts on the mental health and well-being of people in Bangladesh. Addressing the mental health impacts of climate change is crucial for ensuring the well-being of populations affected by the changing climate in Bangladesh and other vulnerable countries. Climate change-related extreme weather events, such as floods and cyclones, can increase the risk of trauma, anxiety, and depression for people who have experienced losses of life, homes, and livelihoods. Besides, climate change-related displacement, such as migration from rural to urban areas, can disrupt social support networks and lead to feelings of isolation, which can contribute to mental health problems. Additionally, environmental degradation, such as the loss of fertile land and water sources, can increase poverty and food insecurity, leading to stress, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, climate change-related occupational hazards, such as increased exposure to heat and toxic substances, can lead to physical and mental health problems for workers in agriculture and other sectors.

Here are some important statistics demonstrating the effect of climate change on the mental health and overall well-being of people.

  • Since the year 2000, there has been a 46% increase in the occurrence of weather-related disasters connected to climate change (Arman et al., 2022)
  • Cyclones, the second-most destructive natural disasters in Bangladesh, make up only 5% of the world’s total, yet they are the most lethal, responsible for 80-90% of all global losses in terms of lives and property caused by cyclones (Nahar et al., 2014)
  • Over 35 million people residing in the coastal region of Bangladesh are subjected to the impacts of these cyclones and the storm surges they bring (Nahar et al., 2014)
  • A single severe cyclone can result in a 4% increase in the prevalence of mental illnesses among the general population (Arman et al., 2022)
  • The national prevalence of mental disorders in disaster-prone areas range from 6.5 to 31% in adults, and from 13.4 to 22.9% in children (Hayward & Ayeb-Karlsson, 2021)
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 50% of natural disaster survivors may have psychosocial needs that could be addressed through a community-based approach (Nahar et al., 2014)

One of such climate-induced mental health issues is Depressive disorder. Depressive disorder is a common mental health condition that affects people of all ages, races, and ethnicities. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is estimated to affect more than 280 million people (Depression, n.d.). The prevalence of depression varies by country and region, but it is estimated that approximately 3.8% of the global population has experienced a major depressive episode in their lifetime.

According to the final report of Bangladesh Adolescent Health and Wellbeing Survey 2019-20, approximately 40% of both unmarried and married females showed mild symptoms of depression (scoring 5-9), with 27% of unmarried males exhibiting similar symptoms. A small portion (5%) of unmarried males had moderate symptoms of depression (scoring 10-14), which was double the amount for both unmarried (9%) and married (12%) females. A minor percentage (1-3%) of adolescents had moderately severe symptoms of depression (scoring 15-19), and even fewer (less than 1%) had severe symptoms (scoring 20-27), with the highest incidence among married females (0.7%) and the lowest among unmarried males (0.1%). This data shows that adolescent females have poorer mental health compared to males, with higher instances of depression.

The table below presents the percent distribution of the severity of different depressive symptoms in ever-married females, unmarried females, and unmarried male adolescents with an age range of 15-19:


The incidence of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) was higher among married females (15%) and unmarried females (11%) than unmarried males (5%). Adolescents showed a gender-based disparity in the prevalence of MDD, with married females being three times and unmarried females being twice as likely to suffer from MDD as compared to unmarried males, as represented in the figure below:

Figure: Percent distribution of adolescents (15-19) with MDD

In a scoping review study by (Goudet et al., 2022), the authors created a connection between mental health, climate change, and mobility, focusing on slow-onset events. The aim is to better understand how individuals’ mental health is affected by a changing climate and mobility experiences. Some researchers view mobility as both a means of adapting to environmental changes and a potential source of mental health problems. However, the causal relationships behind this have yet to be fully understood, considering the various types of mobility (such as seasonal, limited, intentional, or constrained) in relation to environmental changes and their effects on mental health. The impact of climate change on mental health (both direct and indirect) is linked to physical health, but mental health is often overlooked in discussions about climate change and migration. This exacerbates social inequalities and leaves vulnerable groups, such as children, women, those with limited financial resources, and those facing discrimination, more susceptible to mental health problems. Moreover, access to care for mental health is more unequal, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

These mental health effects are not limited to the individuals who are directly displaced. The communities they leave behind and the communities they move to can also experience the impacts of climate-induced immobility on their mental health. The loss of friends, family, and community members can cause grief and trauma, while the influx of new people can lead to cultural tensions and conflicts. It is crucial to address the root causes of climate change and support those affected by its consequences. This can be achieved through international cooperation and collaboration, investment in renewable energy and climate adaptation, and support for the mental health and well-being of those affected by climate change.

From 1976 to 2019, Bangladesh’s temperature rose 0.5°C. The changing climate has caused longer, hotter summers, warmer winters, and a monsoon season from March to October, blurring the country’s seasonal differences. A recent World Bank report links climate change to the spread of infectious diseases and mental health issues like respiratory illnesses, waterborne diseases, and mosquito-borne diseases (Climate Change and Mental Health Risks in Bangladesh, n.d.).

More about her speech can be found on the website below:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists are highly confident that there is a link between rising temperatures and declining mental health. The adverse mental health effects associated with high temperatures include increased rates of suicide, hospitalizations for psychiatric reasons, and elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and stress.

  • According to a 2021 World Health Organization (WHO) survey, only 9 out of 95 surveyed countries have incorporated mental health and psychosocial support into their national health and climate change strategies.
  • Nearly 1 billion individuals live with mental health conditions. However, only 25% have access to the necessary services in low- and middle-income countries.

Thus, World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the importance of addressing mental health in the context of Climate Change. To learn more visit:

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is an annual global research collaboration that tracks progress. It provides an independent, rigorous analysis of the links between public health and climate change and the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The Countdown provides a comprehensive overview of the impacts of the climate crisis on health and the responses of health systems to these impacts, including implementing policies that help mitigate and adapt to climate change. The aim is to inform policy decisions and guide action to protect public health from the impacts of climate change.

Each year they release their findings in The Lancet medical journal before the United Nations climate change negotiations. The data from the Lancet Countdown clearly shows the impact of climate change on our health, the negative effects of delayed action, and the positive impact on health from a strong response to climate change. More about them can be found here:

Some scientific research delineating the link between climate change and mental health issues:
1) A systematic review published in the “Journal of Affective Disorders” concluded that people affected by climate change-related disasters have an increased risk of developing mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder

2) A study published in the “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health” found that people exposed to long-term environmental stressors, such as drought, have higher rates of anxiety and depression.

3) Research published in the “Journal of Environmental Psychology” found that exposure to natural disasters, such as floods and hurricanes, can lead to increases in stress and anxiety.

These studies and others demonstrate the significant impacts of climate change on mental health and highlight the importance of addressing these impacts in the context of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

The most commonly used questionnaire for mental health assessment in disaster research is the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PTSD-Checklist). It is a self-report questionnaire that assesses the symptoms of PTSD as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The questionnaire consists of 20 items that assess the frequency and intensity of symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, avoidance behaviors, and hyperarousal. It provides a total score that can be used to determine the presence and severity of PTSD symptoms in individuals exposed to traumatic events. Other commonly used scales in disaster research include the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS) and the Impact of Event Scale (IES).

To learn more about the details of other mental health screening tools and their use in disaster research, check out this study published on the Yale digital repository:


Arman, N., Salam Shaoli, S., & Hossain, S. (2022). Mental health and climate change in Bangladesh. Https://Doi.Org/10.1080/09540261.2022.209310034(5), 513–515.

Climate Change and Mental Health Risks in Bangladesh. (n.d.). Retrieved February 6, 2023, from

Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved February 6, 2023, from

Goudet, J. M., faria.binte.arif, Ahmed, H. U., & Ridde, V. (2022). Mental health, mobility and climate change: a scoping review protocol.

Hayward, G., & Ayeb-Karlsson, S. (2021). ‘Seeing with Empty Eyes’: a systems approach to understand climate change and mental health in Bangladesh. Climatic Change165(1–2), 1–30.

Nahar, N., Blomstedt, Y., Wu, B., Kandarina, I., Trisnantoro, L., & Kinsman, J. (2014). Increasing the provision of mental health care for vulnerable, disaster-affected people in Bangladesh. BMC Public Health14(1), 1–9.

Source: icddr,b

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