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Gen Z Youth Say Climate Change is Adversely Affecting Their Physical and Mental Health in New National Survey by Blue Shield of California

Nonprofit health plan responds with its new five-year NextGen sustainability goals to help safeguard the health of the next generation, support health equity

OAKLAND, Calif. More than eight out of 10 (83 %) Gen Z youth are concerned about the health of the planet according to the NextGen Climate Survey, released today by Blue Shield of California. A majority of respondents also say their environment affects their physical health (69%) and their mental health (75%).


The survey was conducted in March to help uncover young people’s top environmental concerns, how climate change impacts their well-being, and their optimism for the future. The poll included 1,200 respondents, aged 14 to 24, from across the U.S.

According to the poll, the top three environmental issues on the minds of young people are: air quality (60%), water pollution (59%) and plastic pollution (56%). More than half (54%) said they are ‘very concerned’ about the planet running out of resources. One in four (26%) said that an environmental event or natural disaster – like a flood, fire or hurricane – has impacted their ability to concentrate in school.

“Climate change is very real and there are a lot of environmental disasters happening,” said 22-year-old Justin Valenzuela, co-president of the Ohlone College Sustainability Club and co-founder of Renegade Feedings in the Bay Area. “Most importantly, I know a lot of marginalized communities around the world are facing different ends of climate change, even though they aren’t the contributors. Providing sustainable health care to all, especially marginalized communities that are affected by climate change, seems like the right step.”

The poll coincides with the nonprofit health plan’s unveiling of its new climate goals – efforts to help improve the health of individuals, families, and communities through better environmental stewardship.

“At Blue Shield of California, we understand the intrinsic relationship between the environment and personal well-being. It is incredible to see that youth have already made the connection to their immediate health,” said Paul Markovich, president and CEO, of Blue Shield of California. “That’s why we are making new sustainability commitments today, to safeguard the health of the next generation and ensure a brighter future for them.” 

Blue Shield, which is a CarbonNeutral® certified company, today announced its new NextGen sustainability goals, which include:

  • Become carbon negative by 2023
  • Achieve zero waste operations by 2025
  • Quantify the cost of climate change on human health by 2023
  • Adopt and promote climate smart health care by 2025

These commitments are also part of the health plan’s climate action and social justice efforts to achieve health equity throughout California. Research shows climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color and lower incomes.

“Blue Shield is working towards being the most sustainable health plan in California because environmental sustainability is core to our overall health and well-being,” Markovich said. “Young people understand that, and we all have a part to play in making our children’s future healthy.”

Hope for the future and taking responsibility for climate change

Other highlights from Blue Shield of California’s NextGen Climate Survey include:

  • Racism and social justice (62 %), the environment and climate change (47 %), education (47 %), health care (43 %) and gender equality (41 %) are top social issues among Gen Z.
  • 62 % of Gen Z respondents said they felt their generation takes climate change at least somewhat seriously, while only 34 % said they felt their parents’ generation take it as seriously.
  • Respondents say they want both federal (71 %) and state/local (58 %) governments to do more to protect people from negative health effects from climate change.
  • Nearly half (48 %) of Gen Z respondents said they feel better about the future health of the planet under the new administration in the White House, while 19 % said they feel worse.

Blue Shield of California NextGen Climate Survey methodology

Blue Shield of California commissioned Quest Mindshare to field a representative survey online of 1,200 youth nationwide, including an oversample of 300 in California, aged 14-24. The survey was fielded online March 5-12, 2021. To see the full survey report, click here.

About Blue Shield of California
Blue Shield of California strives to create a healthcare system worthy of its family and friends that is sustainably affordable. Blue Shield of California is a tax paying, nonprofit, independent member of the Blue Shield Association with over 4.5 million members, over 7,500 employees and more than $21 billion in annual revenue. Founded in 1939 in San Francisco and now headquartered in Oakland, Blue Shield of California and its affiliates provide health, dental, vision, Medicaid and Medicare healthcare service plans in California. The company has contributed more than $150 million to Blue Shield of California Foundation in the last four years to have an impact on California communities.

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