Mental Health Outcomes Among Health Care Workers Exposed to Coronavirus
April 9, 2020   

With the rising rates of COVID-19 (i.e., severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) infection and hospitalization across the world, frontline health care workers will continue to face an overwhelming workload throughout the course of this pandemic. This workload, along with the depletion of personal protection equipment, widespread media coverage, lack of specific drugs and feelings of being inadequately supported may contribute to adverse psychological reactions. The current study provides an assessment of the mental health burden of Chinese healthcare workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak to identify potential risk factors that may guide mental health interventions. This was a cross-sectional, hospital-based survey study conducted via region-stratified sampling over six days. Hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for COVID-19 were eligible; 20 hospitals in Wuhan (center of outbreak), 7 hospitals in other regions inside Hubei province, and 7 hospitals in regions outside Hubei province with a high incidence of COVID-19 were included. Response rates were relatively high (68.7%; N=1,257) with 39.2% and 60.8% of responses from physicians and nurses, respectively. Most responses were from health care providers who worked in Wuhan (60.5%), were women (76.7%), were aged 26 to 40 years (64.7%), were married, widowed or divorced (66.7%), had an educational level of undergraduate or less (75.8%), had a junior technical title (55.6%), worked in tertiary hospitals (74.2%), and lived in urban areas (97.1%). 41.5% were frontline health care workers directly engaged in diagnosis, treating or caring for patients with or suspected to have COVID-19. Symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress were reported by 50.4%, 44.6%, 34.0% and 71.5% of respondents, respectively. Group differences in and risk factors for psychiatric symptoms are presented in Table 1. Despite some limitations, including not accounting for preexisting mental illness, the findings indicate a high prevalence of mental health symptoms among health care workers treating patients with COVID-19 in China. Mental health intervention efforts should focus on health care providers most affected, specifically women, nurses and frontline workers.


Lai J et al. JAMA Netw Open 2020;3(3):e203976. Abstract

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