A cross-sectional survey of climate and COVID-19 crises in young people in Indian slums: context, psychological responses, and agency

Elsevier, The Lancet Regional Health - Southeast Asia, Volume 13, June 2023
Yatirajula S.K., Prashad L., Daniel M., Maulik P.K.

Background: COVID-19 and the climate crisis have caused unprecedented disruptions across the world. Climate change has affected the mental health and wellbeing of children and adolescent. Young people with a mental illness and without social support are at an increased risk of climate change induced mental ill-health. COVID-19 resulted in a marked increase of psychological distress. Increase in depression, anxiety and insomnia have increased due to the upheavals that people were experiencing including loss of livelihood and breaking of social bonds. Methods: This exploratory study adopted a cross sectional survey design using quantitative methods to understand the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings of young people on both the climate and COVID-19 crises, their concerns, and desires for the future and to understand their sense of agency to contribute to the changes that they want to see. Findings: The findings show that most of the respondents from the sample studied reported nearly similar interference of climate change and COVID-19 on their mental wellbeing. Their climate concern and COVID-19 concern scores were comparable. Tangible experiences of extreme weather events, that were personally experienced or that impacted their family members had a negative impact on their lives, while action around improving the environment had a positive impact. Loss of income, loss of mobility and loss of social contact due to COVID-19 had negative impacts on the respondents, while indulging in leisure activities and bonding with the family had positive impacts. Although the majority of the participants reported having both climate and COVID agency, it did not translate into action to improve the environment. Interpretation: Young people's activism on climate change and COVID-19 has a positive impact on their mental wellbeing hence more opportunities and platforms must be provided to enable young people to take action on both these crises. Funding: None.