Health Care

More than 20 percent of health care workers experience depression, anxiety amid pandemic: study

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More than 20 percent of health care workers worldwide have experienced depression and anxiety amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published Wednesday.

A meta-analysis of 65 studies surveying more than 97,000 people between December 2019 and August 2020 concluded that 21.7 percent of health care workers have experienced depression and 22.1 percent have experienced anxiety during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Researchers averaged the results of nine of these studies to predict that 21.5 percent of health care workers worldwide have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The study published in PLOS One warned that “appropriate support” for these workers “is urgently needed.”

“Our findings present a concerning outlook for health care workers, a group continually needed at the forefront of action against COVID-19, and at continued risk of associated psychological stressors,” the study reads. 

“The response from policy makers and service providers must be decisive and swift, addressing mental health concerns … in this group, before long-term health and social impacts are realized,” it continues.

Nathaniel Scherer, a co-lead author of the study, told CNN that the results were not shocking to him, as “previous evidence has shown that these experiences can lead to stress, fatigue and burnout, which can increase the risk of common mental disorders.”

The research broke down the results by region, finding that health care workers in the Middle East reported the highest rates of depression and anxiety at 34.6 percent and 28.9 percent, respectively. As a region, North American health care workers had the lowest rates of depression and anxiety at 18.7 percent and 14.8 percent, respectively.

But Scherer urged caution when making conclusions about the regions as the analysis was based on seven studies in the Middle East and two in North America. 

Shekhar Saxena, a professor of global mental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told CNN that more research needed to be done to monitor the rates of mental illness among these workers over time and obtain data on burnout, suicide attempts and deaths.

Health experts have been warning about the mental health impacts of the pandemic for months. President Biden’s selection for surgeon general committed to looking into how the pandemic has affected mental health across the country in an interview earlier this month.

More than 118 million COVID-19 cases have been identified globally, leading to more than 2.6 million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Tags Anxiety Coronavirus COVID-19 Depression health care workers Joe Biden Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD

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