Climate change affects children’s mental health, from before birth

Ground Report | New Delhi: Climate change affects children; A new scientific article showed that climate change is already affecting the healthy psychological development of children around the world. The authors caution that these adverse effects on childhood mental health begin before birth and extend throughout development. In addition, these are aggravated as climate change advances.

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Climate change affects children

The study Climate Change and Children’s Mental Health: A Developmental Perspective published by scientists Francis Vergunst of the University of Montreal and Helen L. Berry of the University of Sydney emphasizes that the state of mental health is the result of a complex causal chain that begins before birth. And one of the causes that are gaining strength is precisely climate change.

In the case of children, acute environmental stressors begin to be a trigger for mental disorders from before birth. By that, the scientists mean that hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and heatwaves can traumatize the mother physically and mentally. And this situation can affect the developing fetus, increasing its vulnerability to a number of diseases throughout its life.

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For example, a subacute stressor, such as heat waves that occur in summers, can trigger obstetric complications and preterm delivery, both of which are classified as well-established risk factors for several major psychiatric disorders.

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Playing havoc with development

The article also highlights that infectious diseases, environmental toxins, exposure to extreme heat, and dehydration in children up to 12 years of age can impair the achievement of milestones in language and cognitive development. Both are essential for a good state of mind.

For their part, adolescents tend to undergo significant changes in hormone secretion, bone growth, and metabolic disturbances. At the same time, about half of psychiatric disorders are established before the age of 18. Therefore, adolescence is considered a critical stage as far as mental health is concerned.

For these reasons, the effects of climate change can have an extremely stressful impact on teens. This can lead to an increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, situations that compromise long-term mental resilience.

The authors recommend, in addition to creating policies that reverse the course of climate change, including the youngest in decision-making, both in developing countries and in the most economically prosperous.

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