Federal agencies Health care/social assistance Health Care Workers

Health care workers facing a mental health crisis: CDC report

Photo: PeopleImages/iStockphoto

Washington — Health care workers are reporting burnout and poor mental health at levels higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers used data from the General Social Survey Quality of Worklife Module to compare self-reported mental health symptoms among U.S. adult workers from 2018 (1,400-plus respondents, including 226 health workers) and 2022 (almost 2,000 respondents, including 325 health care workers).

The health care workers reported an increase to 4.5 days of poor mental health during the previous 30 days from 3.3 days. The percentage who felt burned out “very often” jumped to 19 from 11.6.

In addition, the number of the health care workers who reported harassment more than doubled. Harassment at work was associated with increased odds of anxiety, depression and burnout.

The report includes strategies for employers to help lessen worker mental distress:

  • Value worker safety and health
  • Train supervisors to provide support
  • Ensure adequate staffing
  • Assign a senior leader to promote staff well-being
  • Include workers in the decision-making process
  • Model and support taking time off

To help health care employers build a healthier workforce, NIOSH has launched the Impact Wellbeing campaign. The agency encourages leaders to take actions, such as administering NIOSH’s Worker Well-Being Questionnaire, developing Total Worker Health initiatives and using the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation Toolkit to make it safe for staff to seek mental health care.

Breen was an ER physician in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic and died by suicide in 2020.

As part of the campaign, NIOSH has made 10 online training modules available for public health workers and leaders. The modules focus on various aspects of burnout, including organization reduction strategies, physical and emotional resources, contributing factors, and why public health care workers are at high risk.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)