Balancing the Climate and Mental Health Threats: Climate-anxiety Identification in Higher Education Institutions

Climate anxiety is a growing mental health issue among both lecturers and students in sustainability-related fields in Higher Education Institutions. The increase in climate anxiety in the recent years has contributed to the need of education institutions to address it properly, both by university Student Health Services and administrative units: to design learning environments and institutional processes that are conducive to coping with climate anxiety. Since climate anxiety is not clearly identified as a specific mental health threat within university borders, many students do not feel eligible to address the Student Health Services with their anxiety problems caused by climate change threats. The research project aims to identify climate anxiety issues among both lecturers and students in sustainability-related fields at Uppsala University with a specific focus on the campus Gotland, and to develop procedural recommendations for the university administration and Student Health Services on tackling this problem.

The research components: 

(1)    Analysis of perceptions, personal experience, and attitudes that students and lecturers in sustainability-related fields at Uppsala University (campus Gotland) have towards climate anxiety;

(2)    Analysis of climate anxiety related actions and work of the Student Health Service at Uppsala University (campus Gotland) and other Swedish universities; and 

(3)    Identifying, forming, and testing procedural recommendations for the university administration and Student Health Services on tackling climate anxiety issues.

The role of civil society and individuals in combating climate change is substantial. On the one hand, climate anxiety can paralyze us and prevent us from actually acting on climate change; on the other hand, it can be defined as “an adaptive response to the threat of climate change” (Comtesse et al. 2021), thus triggering positive actions to contribute global climate safety. Finding ways to cope with climate anxiety could be imperative in maintaining the mental health of university students. Here the campus Gotland can play a special societal role in both working for student mental health, and in moving the Gotland society - including university lecturers - towards sustainable futures by providing best practices to Region Gotland in terms of good procedures for climate anxiety problems. Building emotional and mental resilience for climate change is also useful for other mental health problems, such as the rise in depression and anxiety due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The topic of climate anxiety is ‘here to stay’ and Higher Education Institutions need to strengthen both students and lecturers for the future, so that they feel healthy and able to combat climate change involving local societal actors.

Duration: 2021-2023
Funders: Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Uppsala University

Challenges for environmental and sustainability education research in times of climate crisis: the results of the 15th Invitational Seminar in Ghent

On June 13 - 16 2022, Oleksandra Khalaim was representing Swedesd at the 15th edition of the Invitational Seminar on Environmental Education Research organized in Ghent (Belgium) by the Centre for Sustainable Development in collaboration with partners of the SEDwise network. The central theme was ‘Challenges for environmental and sustainability education research in times of climate crisis’. Oleksandra participated with the essay “I am not Eligible”: Climate Anxiety Student Coping within University Boarders”, published in an online seminar edition (link). During the seminar, a podcast was recorded highlighting the main discussion outcomes. In the Episode 2, (link) Oleksandra together with colleagues from University of Bristol, Wageningen University, and Umeå University was deliberating on emotionally challenging and existential issues in teaching and learning practices. 

More details about the seminar are available at the Ghent University web page.

Workshop on Climate Anxiety in collaboration with Sapienza University of Rome

On May 26 2023, the Department of Dynamic and Clinical Psychology and Health Studies at "Sapienza" University of Rome kindly hosted a hybrid event about climate anxiety in higher education organized by Oleksandra Khalaim, researcher at SWEDESD, Uppsala University, and Magdalena Budziszewska, Professor at Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw. Preliminary results of Oleksandra’s ongoing research were presented and discussed.

Video recordings of the event

  • Part 1 (introduction and quantitative study results, presented by Oleksandra)
  • Part 2 (qualitative study results, presented by Magdalena)
  • Part 3 (Q&A session).



Oleksandra Khalaim

Forskare vid Institutionen för kvinnors och barns hälsa, Swedesd - Centrum för forskning och utbildning om lärande för hållbar utveckling

Senast uppdaterad: 2023-05-30