Do you have ‘eco-anxiety’? Here’s how to find out
Here, she offers insights about the impact of climate on health.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Bonnie Schneider: Our environment affects the core drivers of health. Temperature changes, air and water quality, food safety and availability, and even our emotional well-being are tied up with our natural surroundings. Changes to these variables can impact both healthy people and those with preexisting conditions.
Overall, natural disasters now happen more frequently, impacting more people.
Also important to mention is that natural disasters can affect mental health, even among those who haven’t been directly impacted. Upheaval in one’s own community can, of course, prompt distress. But just seeing images of weather destruction on TV can trigger anxiety. That’s the case even if the specific weather event is not actually linked to climate change.
CNN: What is “eco-anxiety,” and how pervasive is it?
Schneider: Eco-anxiety refers to the anxiety and fear that people have over climate change and the future of the planet.
CNN: Do certain medical conditions make people more vulnerable to environmental changes?
Schneider: Yes. Most medical experts say weather extremes of any kind can stress the body. With the climate changing, we’re getting hotter days for a longer period of time. This can lead to troubles for people with certain autoimmune diseases that flare up under particular environmental conditions. Lupus, for example, can be triggered by bright sunlight due to UV ray exposure, according to the medical experts I interviewed.
CNN: What does climate change have to do with infectious disease?
Schneider: The loss of biodiversity has become a huge problem. Even small, subtle shifts and disruptions to the natural habitats of wildlife affect humans. We’re all part of the ecosystem.
Mosquitoes bring additional concerns. More flooding increases their prevalence and the risk of them transmitting diseases.
Then there are the waterborne flesh-eating bacteria.
Rising water temperatures are believed to have brought deadly bacteria to previously unaffected waters. The Vibrio species, for example, can invade the body through any tiny opening in the skin, rapidly causing severe illness and even death.
Now, we need to add another type of bacteria to our list of concerns.
CNN: What impact does global warming have on allergies?
Molds are other allergens affected by weather, exacerbated by more frequent storms, intense flooding and damp days.
CNN: No wonder people are experiencing climate anxiety. What helps them cope?
Schneider: Psychologists and psychiatrists I spoke with emphasized that we can’t scoff at eco-anxiety. It’s rooted in valid concerns, and people are genuinely troubled.
That decrease is good for mind and body alike.
Jessica DuLong is a Brooklyn, New York-based journalist, book collaborator, writing coach and the author of “Saved at the Seawall: Stories From the September 11 Boat Lift” and “My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the Work that Built America.”