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‘Not sustainable’: Researchers sound the alarm on health care workers’ mental health

Photo: Boyloso/iStockphoto

Raleigh, NC — Health care professionals are at significantly greater risk than the general public of experiencing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic, results of a recent study show.

From March 20 to May 14, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and North Carolina State University conducted an online survey of 90 health care professionals and 90 non-health care workers from 35 states – with both groups having matching ages and sexes – to better understand the pandemic’s impact on the health care industry. Respondents reported current physical and mental health measures.

The health care workers reported significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms, anxiety and concern about their health and tiredness, along with lower levels of proactive coping and fewer resources to dedicate to adaptive coping strategies. Additionally, the health care workers, on average, reported enough depressive symptoms to be diagnosed with clinical depression.

“What we learned suggests that anyone who identifies as a health care professional – whether it’s a physician or a support worker in a hospital – is at risk for mental health problems that could be devastating if left untreated,” researcher Shevaun Neupert, a psychology professor at NC State, said in a press release. “These findings are alarming.”


Neupert added that the health care workers’ depressive symptom scores were approximately 30% higher than the control group’s.

“You don’t expect to see an entire workforce score like that on a depression diagnostic tool,” she said. “That’s not sustainable, and we need to figure out what we’re going to do about it.”

The study was published online Aug. 13 in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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