Home Institution

University of Colorado at Boulder

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

eco-anxiety, mental health, psychological resilience, nature connection, university students


This research looks at the overall question of how planetary health impacts mental health and psychological welling. The central focus is eco-anxiety—mental distress caused by climate change and environmental degradation—and how it manifests in university students. In order to gather data for this research I collected 114 student survey responses, interviewed seven young adults (ages 20-25), and interviewed seven experts in the fields of psychology and environmental studies.

They survey results show high levels of general stress and anxiety, high levels of stress and anxiety related to climate change and the state of the world, and a very high level of importance placed on nature connection in terms of mental health and psychological resilience. Most students also reported feeling that environmental studies classes psychologically prepare them poorly—moderately well for the information they receive.

The young adults and experts interviewed comment on their own experiences with eco-anxiety, the important role media plays in influencing public opinion, their distrust of most mainstream media sources, their perceptions of how climate change is represented in academia (both what’s working and what isn’t), the psychology of climate denial, the process of empowering young adults, and the importance of both nature and community connection. They also provide recommendations for students, universities, organizations, and psychologists on how to best integrate a greater focus on mental health and wellbeing as we move forward with the fight against climate change.


Australian Studies | Environmental Education | Environmental Sciences | Environmental Studies | Higher Education | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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