To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Do concerns about climate change lead to distress?

Kristina Searle (Queensland University of Technology, Lowood, Australia)
Kathryn Gow (Queensland University of Technology, Lowood, Australia)

International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management

ISSN: 1756-8692

Article publication date: 9 November 2010




Climate change news and educational awareness programs have swamped Australia in the past four years, with earlier campaigns raising awareness in Europe and the USA via television and the internet. What is the impact on people's psychological states of such concerns? The purpose of this paper is to explore the psychological impact of climate change within the general population and investigate what makes an individual vulnerable to distress.


A questionnaire was completed by 275 adults that assessed personality factors as well as environmental beliefs and religiosity. The design was cross‐sectional, and correlational analyses determined the associations between climate change distress and symptoms indicative of depression, anxiety and stress. Independent samples t‐tests and ANOVA revealed group differences for age and gender. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to identify important, unique predictors and to determine the extent to which environmental beliefs, future anxiety, intolerance of uncertainty and religiosity accounted for the variability in climate change measures beyond the effects of age and gender.


This study indicates that the public is becoming increasingly concerned about climate change and that there is a relationship between this concern and symptoms that are indicative of depression, anxiety and stress. The results indicate that an individual is more likely to be distressed about climate change if they are female, under the age of 35 years, have a pro‐environmental orientation, and possess personality traits such as high levels of future anxiety.


Bringing attention to the existence of climate change distress, understanding the extent of these fears and what makes a person vulnerable will be helpful in the treatment and prevention of general and clinical levels of climate‐related distress.



Searle, K. and Gow, K. (2010), "Do concerns about climate change lead to distress?", International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 362-379.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited