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The Effects of Climate Change on Child and Adolescent Mental Health: Clinical Considerations


Purpose of Review

We review recent literature on the effects of climate change on child and adolescent mental health and discuss treatment and engagement by clinicians.

Recent Findings

Climate change affects child and adolescent mental health in many intersecting ways, including as a social and ecological determinant of health, a threat amplifier, and a source of trauma and distress. Single extreme weather events contribute to significant negative mental health consequences; however, subacute and chronic climate events also have mental health sequelae. Furthermore, awareness of the climate crisis is associated with emotional distress. Young people with pre-existing mental illness and lacking social support may be at elevated risk for climate change-related mental health effects. Climate activism is associated with resilience and positive development, but may also be a source of increased stress, particularly for marginalized youths.


Climate change can affect the mental health of children and adolescents in complex and diverse ways. Sources of coping and resilience also vary greatly between individuals. Mental health clinicians must respond to this existential crisis by addressing research gaps in this area, obtaining relevant clinical training, educating their communities, and joining and supporting young people in their advocacy efforts.

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Adrienne van Nieuwenhuizen was supported by the R25 MH060482 grant; Xiaoxuan Chen was supported by the Schoeneman grant.

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van Nieuwenhuizen, A., Hudson, K., Chen, X. et al. The Effects of Climate Change on Child and Adolescent Mental Health: Clinical Considerations. Curr Psychiatry Rep 23, 88 (2021).

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  • Climate change
  • Mental health
  • Youth
  • Child
  • Adolescent
  • Activism