The concerned steward effect: Exploring the relationship between climate anxiety, psychological distress, and self-reported climate related behavioural engagement

Julia N. Lukacs, Andreea Bratu, Shona Adams, Carmen Logie, Nathaniel Tok, Lindsay J. McCunn, Melissa Lem, Arden Henley, Kalysha Closson, Gina Martin, Maya K. Gislason, Tim Takaro, Kiffer G. Card

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated that heightened levels of climate change anxiety are correlated with psychological distress. Some have argued that engagement in pro-environmental behaviour might be associated with lower levels of climate anxiety and psychological distress. As such, this study aimed to explore the association between pro-environmental behavioural engagement, climate change anxiety, and generalized psychological distress. Participants living in British Columbia, Canada aged 16+ completed a serial cross-sectional online survey. We examined inter-relationships between self-reported Climate-related Behavioural Engagement (BE) scores, Climate Change Anxiety Scale (CCAS) scores, and Kessler Psychological Distress (K6) scores using scatterplots, Spearman Rank Correlation and multivariable linear regression. Among 1553 participants, higher CCAS scores and higher BE scores were both associated with greater psychological distress. An interaction term between these variables indicated that as CCAS scores increased, the effect of self-reported behavioural engagement on psychological distress was attenuated. Findings suggest that self-reported behavioural engagement and climate anxiety are correlated, a phenomenon we refer to as the concerned steward effect. However, the association becomes attenuated among those with high levels of distress, perhaps driven by a diminishing return of behavioural engagement or difficulties of behavioural engagement among those with high distress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102091
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Volume90
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep. 2023

Keywords

  • Behavioural engagement
  • British columbia
  • Climate action
  • Climate anxiety
  • Climate change
  • Generalized psychological distress

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