Climate Change and Mental Health: Developing a Framework for Interdisciplinary Investigation

November 2020

There is general scientific consensus that ecological and human health is threatened by human-driven climate change, with estimated effects only growing in scope and magnitude as the evidence base mushrooms. While there is comprehensive literature characterizing the impact on physical health (heat-related morbidity, vector-borne diseases, respiratory illness, morbidity and mortality due to extreme weather events), mental health has received much less attention. This is a considerable oversight, given that mental health is an important public health issue and one of the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals. The sparse extant literature on climate change and mental health that does exist has drawn from a traditional disaster framework, leaving a significant gap in our ability to characterize the more abstract, chronic effects of climate change on mental health such as ecological loss, individual and family level impacts, stressors associated with long-term chronic environment change, increasing concentrations of toxins in the environment, and the effects of climate change on adolescents and youth. A novel framework is needed, and the cross-disciplinary pollination made possible by a Radcliffe exploratory seminar represents the ideal format for this cultivation. Because of the extremely diverse disciplines and stakeholders represented, as well as the relatively neglected state of this overlooked area, there are no other opportunities that we are aware of for a highly diverse group of individuals to interact outside of a Radcliffe exploratory seminar.