Study highlights mental health risks facing healthcare workers during pandemic

Gustavo Fring/Pexels

Healthcare workers in the United States are struggling with a suite of mental-health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study by North Carolina State University and published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

The study reports that healthcare workers are at greater risk than the general public of experiencing health problems such as depression. On average, healthcare professionals reported enough symptoms of depression to be diagnosed with clinical depression, the researchers found.

For this study, researchers conducted an online survey of 90 people who identified as healthcare workers. While most respondents were physicians, nurses and medical technicians, some held roles such as hospital administrators. The researchers also surveyed a control group of 90 people who did not work in healthcare, but matched the age and sex of the healthcare workers. The study ran from March 20 through May 14. Study participants came from 35 states.

The survey included demographic questions, as well as questions aimed at capturing various aspects of mental health and well-being.

Healthcare workers reported higher levels of stress, anxiety and tiredness, as well as lower feelings of control over their lives.

The researchers also found that the healthcare workers were less likely to engage in "proactive coping," meaning they were doing less to prepare themselves for future stresses or adverse events.

Our findings suggest that healthcare workers are at much higher risk right now of negative outcomes, such as depression," said Shevaun Neupert, PhD, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-author of the paper. "That's not sustainable, and we need to figure out what we're going to do about it."

Editor's note: Click here for more information and ongoing COVID-19 updates for integrative healthcare professionals.