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Examining mental health and COVID-19

A recent study evaluated the factors associated with mental health symptoms in healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and since that time, the outbreak spread quickly to more than 200 countries. Healthcare workers, responsible for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 are more likely to be at risk of developing mental health problems. Previous studies reported that healthcare workers experienced elevated levels of stress, anxiety, and depression during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

A recent study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, evaluated the factors associated with mental health symptoms among health workers involved in diagnosing, treating, and caring for patients with COVID-19.  The study enrolled 1257 healthcare workers in 34 hospitals in China between January 29, 2020, and February 3, 2020. The hospitals were equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with the virus.

The participants were divided into three groups to compare the differences between regions. Healthcare workers from Wuhan were assigned to one group, while those from the rest of the Hubei province were placed in another group. The third group included participants from regions outside the province.

The study reported that a significant proportion of the healthcare workers experienced mental health symptoms. Around half of the participants reported having symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, while over 70 percent experienced psychological distress.  

Women, nurses, front-line healthcare workers and those working in Wuhan, reported more severe mental health symptoms than other healthcare workers. Front-line workers, directly involved in diagnosing, treating, or caring for patients with COVID-19, were found to be at an increased risk of developing symptoms of depression. Researchers also found that healthcare workers from outside Hubei province had a lower risk of experiencing distress in comparison to those from Wuhan.

The findings indicate that healthcare workers involved in treating patients with COVID-19 are at an increased risk of developing mental health symptoms. The researchers suggest providing psychological support or interventions to healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19, particularly women, nurses, and front-line workers.

Written by Ranjani Sabarinathan, MSc                                                                                      


Lai J, Ma S, Wang Y, et al. Factors Associated With Mental Health Outcomes Among Health Care Workers Exposed to Coronavirus Disease 2019. JAMA Netw Open. 2020; 3(3):e203976. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3976

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay 



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