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The Psychological Effects of Climate Change on Children


Purpose of Review

We review recent evidence on the psychological effects of climate change on children, covering both direct and indirect impacts, and discuss children’s psychological adaptation to climate change.

Recent Findings

Both the direct and flow-on effects of climate change place children at risk of mental health consequences including PTSD, depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, attachment disorders, and substance abuse. These in turn can lead to problems with emotion regulation, cognition, learning, behavior, language development, and academic performance. Together, these create predispositions to adverse adult mental health outcomes. Children also exhibit high levels of concern over climate change. Meaning-focused coping promotes well-being and environmental engagement.


Both direct and indirect climate change impacts affect children’s psychological well-being. Children in the developing world will suffer the worst impacts. Mental health professionals have important roles in helping mitigate climate change, and researching and implementing approaches to helping children cope with its impacts.

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    The reviews also show, however, that 12–25-year-olds have many concerns and worries that compete with climate change for their attention, like economic and employment concerns [44].


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Susie E. L. Burke.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

All reported studies/experiments with human or animal subjects performed by the authors have been previously published and complied with all applicable ethical standards (including the Helsinki declaration and its amendments, institutional/national research committee standards, and international/national/institutional guidelines).

Additional information

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Child and Family Disaster Psychiatry

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Burke, S.E.L., Sanson, A.V. & Van Hoorn, J. The Psychological Effects of Climate Change on Children. Curr Psychiatry Rep 20, 35 (2018).

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  • Climate change
  • Children
  • Adolescents
  • Psychological effects
  • Coping
  • Mental health
  • Environmental engagement