The George Institute for Global Health, India reports on the psychological responses to climate change and COVID-19 in young Indians
With Earth Day on April 22, it is relevant to discuss a study conducted by The George Institute for Global Health scientists on the psychological reactions of young people to the twin crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
The study entitled "Psychological responses to the climate and COVID-19 crises in young people, and their agency to build the world they hope to see" was conducted by the George Institute researchers in July 2021. The study's co-authors, Dr Sandhya Kanaka Yatirajula, Lokender Prashad, Mercian Daniel, and Dr Pallab Maulik, offer valuable insights and recommendations for building a better future and empowering young people to take agency in shaping the world they hope to see.
Talking about the need for such a study, the lead author Dr Yatirajula said, “While COVID-19 has affected daily life and health on an immediate level, climate change has been silently damaging the planet with adverse impacts that are not immediately apparent. The loss of agency and hopelessness that may result from climate change is concerning, particularly for vulnerable populations who are already at risk due to the COVID-19 crisis.”
The study was conducted in the city of Faridabad in North India and Jubilee Hills in the city of Hyderabad in South India, where slums were purposively selected based on population size, accessibility, and proximity to regional field offices. The study used a cross-sectional survey method to understand people's feelings regarding climate change and COVID-19. The scientists aimed to investigate the changes people hoped for after the COVID-19 crisis and their role in bringing about these changes. Their focus was on how individuals can contribute towards addressing the COVID-19 and climate crises.
The study found that although most people felt that they had the power to make a difference when it comes to climate change and COVID-19, this did not necessarily translate into action.
Explaining this observation further, the lead scientist, Dr Maulik said, “While individuals may feel a sense of responsibility for addressing these societal issues, they do not take decisive action. This suggests that broader societal factors may be at play, such as systemic barriers or a lack of collective action, that are preventing individuals from fully realizing their sense of agency.”
The study found that most people continued their usual behaviour towards the environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, or even did less than before. This aligns with the general belief that people may have an emotional response to climate change, but that does not always lead to changes in their behaviour towards the environment.
The study emphasizes the importance of involving young people in action to mitigate the effects of climate change and COVID-19, giving them a sense of purpose, and building resilience to deal with the stress and strains that adverse climate events or pandemics might throw their way.
The study also highlights the importance of collaboration between policymakers and citizens to create a country that is not just resilient to the negative impacts of pandemics and climate change, but also proactive in preventing them.
This work was conducted as part of another ongoing study entitled "Mental Health Risk Factors among Older Adolescents living in Urban Slums: An Intervention to Improve Resilience (ANUMATI)" based on population size, accessibility, and proximity to regional field offices. This research work has been published in the prestigious journal, The Lancet Regional Health – Southeast Asia.