Since the beginning of the pandemic, healthcare workers have shown a remarkable resilience and professional dedication despite a fear of becoming infected, but a new study suggests that more than half of Covid-19 healthcare workers are at risk for mental health problems.
The findings, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, highlighted that doctors, nurses and emergency responders involved in Covid-19 care could be at risk for one or more mental health problems, including acute traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, problematic alcohol use, and insomnia.
“Although the majority of health care professionals and emergency responders aren’t necessarily going to develop PTSD, they are working under severe duress, day after day, with a lot of unknowns,” said the researcher, Andrew J. Smith from the University of Utah in the US.
“Some will be susceptible to a host of stress-related mental health consequences. By studying both resilient and pathological trajectories, we can build a scaffold for constructing evidence-based interventions for both individuals and public health systems,” Smith added.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 571 healthcare workers, including 473 emergency responders (firefighters, police, EMTs) and 98 hospital staff (doctors, nurses).
Overall, 56 per cent of the respondents screened positive for at least one mental health disorder.
The prevalence for each specific disorder ranged from 15 per cent to 30 per cent of the respondents, with problematic alcohol use, insomnia and depression topping the list.
In particular, the scientists found that healthcare workers who were exposed to the virus or who were at greater risk of infection because they were immunocompromised had a significantly increased risk of acute traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.
The researchers suggest that identifying these individuals and offering them alternative roles could reduce anxiety, fear and the sense of helplessness associated with becoming infected.