The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of people’s lives, among the most important, their mental health. Increase in stress, anxiety, and depression are reported globally, leading to a range of mental health issues. Just before the pandemic rose however, another phenomenon affecting mental health began to gain recognition: Eco-anxiety was identified as the “biggest pop-culture trend” of 2019 by Grist magazine.
What is eco-anxiety?
Eco-anxiety is a type of anxiety related to concerns about the environment and climate change. It is a growing concern, as people become more aware of the impact of human activities on the planet. Eco-anxiety can manifest itself in different ways, including fear, despair, and helplessness.
The negative effects of the pandemic on mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented levels of disruption and uncertainty to people’s lives. People from all walks of life were faced with significant social, economic, and health-related challenges, which have in turn contributed to a range of negative effects on mental health.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% globally in the first year of the pandemic. The uncertainty and constant changes in information about the virus and measures have contributed to these issues. Additionally, stress, financial strain, and grief in combination with social isolation and lockdowns led to loneliness and feelings of disconnection from others, which can exacerbate mental health issues.
The connection between the pandemic, mental health, and eco-anxiety
The biggest global threats of this century are considered to be climate change and pandemics. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the fragility of our interconnected world showing how our actions have far-reaching consequences and the health of our planet is intricately linked to our own well-being. Researchers point out there are similarities in how the pandemic and climate change affect people’s mental health.
The abrupt changes brought on to people’s lives, causing economic instability, job loss and social isolation, resulted in a sense of instability and fragility. At the same time, as many individuals were spending more time at home, there was also more time for reflection.
People have become more aware of issues such as air pollution, deforestation, and climate change, as they have seen the benefits of reduced human activity on the environment, such as improved air quality and reduced carbon emissions.
During the pandemic the importance of science was also demonstrated in understanding and responding to environmental issues. People have looked to experts for guidance on how to navigate the pandemic, and this has highlighted the importance of scientific research in addressing complex global challenges such as climate change.
The pandemic has made apparent the world’s lack of preparation to deal with catastrophic events while at the same time giving hints towards possible solutions to environmental problems. It has in a way served as a wake-up call, reminding us of the importance of taking care of the planet and the role we all have to play in building a more sustainable future.
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