Environmental anxiety reaches highest level in 20 years

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:
Concerns about the environment remains unevenly distributed, despite having risen overall

Environmental anxiety has reached its highest level since July 1990 with 21% of Britons mentioning the environment and pollution as a “major issue” for Britain, the October 2019 Ipsos MORI Issues Index shows.

This represents a six percentage point rise from September and pushes the topic into fourth place in a ranking of the nation’s top issues, above education, the economy, and immigration.

The figure is the latest peak in a long stretch of growth in importance for the issue, starting from September 2012 when only 2% of respondents mentioned the environment.

Notably, concern about the environment remains unevenly distributed, despite having risen strongly overall.

Those in the middle class were found to be most worried, with almost a third (32%) of those in the top social grade, AB, expressing environmental concern, and a quarter (24%) of those in the next tier down, social grade C1.

The figure for those in the C2 grade was 14% and for those in grade DE, 12%.

Younger Britons were most concerned (29% of 18-24-year-olds), closely followed by those aged 45 to 54 (26%).

Anxiety was highest among those living in southern England (29%) and lowest for those in the Midlands (15%).

Women were slightly more concerned about the environment than men (22% to 20%).

The October Ipsos report also showed that Brexit remains the country’s biggest concern, with 63% mentioning it as a key issue, similar to the September score of 65%. Respondents were surveyed while MPs were voting on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, but before the general election was called.

Healthcare was the UK’s second biggest issue, mentioned by 36% of respondents, followed by crime, at 24%.

Speaking to RWW, Paul Davison, managing director at Proteus Communications Group, said: “These statistics reveal a real opportunity for the [waste and resource management] sector.

“The elephant in the room in most of our communications that try to get the UK to recycle better - in terms of quality and volumes - is the fact we need to get the reprocessing sector in the UK really dynamised.

“One of the best ways to do that is to get the public to demand it. We can use the fact that people are worried about the environment to get them to push for goods with recycled content, so we process more - and also to remind them that they can make a positive difference every single day by minimising their waste and recycling what they do use.”

The October 2019 Ipsos MORI Issues Index provides an overview of the key issues concerning the country and surveyed a representative sample of 1,002 British adults aged 18+. Participants responded spontaneously without being prompted with any answers.


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