Survey: More than a quarter of Finns suffer from ‘climate stress’

Finns have a range of emotions when it comes to climate change - and a lot of different options to help them alleviate any anxiety.

Climate change protesters gather at Senate Square in Helsinki, 6th April 2019 / Credit: Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science

Finns are stressed about climate change – they’re also interested, hopeful, frustrated, interested and feeling inadequate.

A new survey carried out for Sitra, the Finnish Fund for Innovation, asked more than 2000 people for a word to describe their feeling about the climate crises and more than a quarter – 27% – said they were suffering from anxiety about it.

The most-used word was “interested” which was mentioned by 58% of people.

Other words that people used to describe climate change included hope (36%), powerlessness (39%), and frustration or a feeling of inadequacy (44%).

“It is encouraging that very few Finns experience paralysis due to climate change. Positive feelings, such as interest, enthusiasm and hope, are the most important factors in increasing people’s activity to mitigate climate change. But harder feelings like guilt, fear and anxiety also make the majority take action” says Sitra project director Markus Terho.

File picture of student activist Atte Ahokas outside parliament, 15th February 2019 / Credit: Petja Pirhonen, News Now Finland

Young people stressing the most

The latest research finds that people under 30 are more stressed about climate change as 38% of young participants identified as having ‘climate change stress’.

People under the age of 30 are also more likely to find relief for anxiety from their social media activity. Study finds young people in general talk more about their feelings caused by climate change and feel strongest that climate change impacts their voting behavior.

Teenage Finnish activist Atte Ahokas has been leading the Fridays for Future protests outside parliament, alongside other students. He says that taking action is a good way to beat the stress.

“The best way to get rid of climate anxiety is to do something to change the system. Go to protests, vote, and tell our leaders what you feel and think” Ahokas advises.

“Personal environmental actions such as cycling and vegetarianism are good ways to combat anxiety. And yes, social media helps also since you can get a lot of peer support from there and can discuss with people have ideas to help to defeat the climate crisis and anxiety” he tells News Now Finland.

Changing ways of living helps with anxiety

The new study finds that lifestyle choices play an important role in addressing the emotions caused by climate change as 80% of those experiencing anxiety reported that engaging in sustainable lifestyles helps manage their feelings.

The next most popular means for Finns were travelling in nature; discussing the climate change; familiarising themselves with the subject; and physical activity. About one-third identified civil activism or doing some advocacy work as a way to help with the anxiety.

“Each of us can play many different roles: at home with family, in a group of friends, at work, at school, or in our hobbies. There are many ways to influence. Talking about different solutions and choices can also be a significant act to tackle climate change” explains Markus Terho.

“We need an open discussion about what a sustainable society will look like in the future, and how each of us can build a meaningful lifestyle in it. Constructive discussion of different sustainable choices and empowerment reinforces the notion that we are not faced with a gloomy dystopia but a worthy future.” he adds.