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Effect of Climate Change on Mental Health

Miss V Kolos1, Miss G Jain, Miss B Errington, Miss S Butler, Miss J Copland, Miss L Velayutham, Mrs L Ragg, Miss M Lasica, Dr G Hall, Dr J Raymond
1 Australian National University, 2 The Canberra Hospital, 3 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health

While the effects of climate change on physical health have been well documented, there remains a relative gap in research into the effects of climate change on mental health. Environmental consequences of climate change have already had a deleterious impact on mental health and it is likely that future events will have similar repercussions. In this article we discuss the established and potential mental health outcomes of climate change in Australian populations. The inherent uncertainty of scientific predictions compound with conflicting media portrayals to influence the perception of climate change as a threat. We argue that this may raise population levels of guilt, stress and anxiety. We also discuss drought and bushfires as specific Australian examples of climate change-related events that have had significant adverse mental health outcomes in affected populations. Mitigation and adaptation are key to improving outcomes. We discuss practical strategies for reducing the effects of climate change, both on an individual and community level, with an emphasis placed on the role of the doctor. Successful adaptation to the consequences of climate change can be encouraged by fostering social capital to improve community preparedness and coping cability. Finally, this paper highlights the need for further research into the mental health effects of climate change.

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