COVID-19 frontline healthcare workers at risk of mental health problems

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Mental health of nearly 1,300 healthcare workers in China who dealt with COVID-19 patients. The research looked at symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress.

Jianbo Lai, from the department of psychiatry at the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China, is the first author of the study, which appears in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Lai and colleagues set out to examine the mental health outcomes of healthcare professionals who treated patients with COVID-19 in China.

Namely, they looked at healthcare professionals who worked in 34 hospitals that had fever clinics or wards for COVID-19 patients.

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Frontline healthcare professionals “who are directly involved in the diagnosis, treatment, and care” of people with COVID-19 were at the heart of the researchers’ interest.

These workers may be at a heightened risk of psychological distress and other mental health problems, write the authors, due to the ever increasing number of COVID-19 cases, the overwhelming workload, an information overload, and insufficient personal protective equipment and drugs.

Furthermore, the authors note, existing studies show that in similar situations, healthcare workers experience stigmatization, as well as fear of infection for themselves and their families.
Studying 1,257 healthcare workers

Lai and team “collected demographic data and mental health measurements from 1,257 healthcare workers in 34 hospitals from January 29, 2020, to February 3, 2020.” Only hospitals with COVID-19 wards and fever clinics were eligible.

To assess the severity of symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress, the researchers used the Chinese versions of the “nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire, the seven-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale, the seven-item Insomnia Severity Index, and the 22-item Impact of Event Scale-Revised.”

The researchers applied multivariable logistic regression analysis to find the factors that are associated with mental health problems.

The participation rate for the survey was 68.7%. More than 64% of the respondents were between the ages of 26 and 40 years, and over 76% of them were women.

More than 60% of the respondents were nurses, while physicians accounted for just over 39%. Frontline healthcare workers made up 41.5% of the respondents.