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3. Global Warming, Emotional Responses, and Mental Health

3.1. A majority of Americans are worried about global warming.

About two-thirds of Americans (65%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming. This includes 29% of Americans who say they are “very worried” about global warming, a response with a general upward trend since the survey began in 2008.

This bar chart shows the percentage of Americans who are worried about global warming. A majority of Americans are worried about global warming. Data: Climate Change in the American Mind, Fall 2023. Refer to the data tables in Appendix 1 of the report for all percentages.

 

3.2. A small but notable percentage of Americans are experiencing psychological distress because of global warming.

To assess anxiety and depression symptoms arising from people’s concerns about global warming, we adapted previously validated brief screening instruments for general anxiety disorder (the GAD-2)Kroenke, K., Spitzer, R. L., Williams, J. B., Monahan, P. O., & Löwe, B. (2007). Anxiety disorders in primary care: prevalence, impairment, comorbidity, and detection. Annals of internal medicine146(5), 317-325. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-146-5-200703060-00004 and depression (the PHQ-2).Kroenke, K., Spitzer, R. L., & Williams, J. B. (2003). The Patient Health Questionnaire-2: validity of a two-item depression screener. Medical care, 1284-1292. doi:jstor.org/stable/3768417

We found that about one in ten Americans report experiencing symptoms of depression because of global warming for at least “several days” out of the last two weeks, including “feeling down, depressed, or hopeless because of global warming” (12%) or having “little interest or pleasure in doing things because of global warming” (9%). Similar percentages report experiencing symptoms of anxiety because of global warming for at least “several days” out of the last two weeks, including “feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge because of global warming” (11%) or “not being able to stop or control worrying about global warming” (10%).

These bar charts show the percentage of Americans who are experiencing psychological distress because of global warming. A small but notable percentage of Americans are experiencing psychological distress because of global warming. Data: Climate Change in the American Mind, Fall 2023. Refer to the data tables in Appendix 1 of the report for all percentages.