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Coping strategies adopted by Australian frontline health workers to address psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic

journal contribution
posted on 2022-01-10, 07:08 authored by N Smallwood, Leila KarimiLeila Karimi, Amy Pascoe, M Bismark, M Putland, D Johnson, SC Dharmage, E Barson, N Atkin, C Long, I Ng, Anne HollandAnne Holland, J Munro, I Thevarajan, C Moore, Anthony McGillion, Karen WillisKaren Willis
Objectives: The Australian COVID-19 Frontline Healthcare Workers Study investigated coping strategies and help-seeking behaviours, and their relationship to mental health symptoms experienced by Australian healthcare workers (HCWs) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Australian HCWs were invited to participate a nationwide, voluntary, anonymous, single time-point, online survey between 27th August and 23rd October 2020. Complete responses on demographics, home and work situation, and measures of health and psychological wellbeing were received from 7846 participants. Results: The most commonly reported adaptive coping strategies were maintaining exercise (44.9%) and social connections (31.7%). Over a quarter of HCWs (26.3%) reported increased alcohol use which was associated with a history of poor mental health and worse personal relationships. Few used psychological wellbeing apps or sought professional help; those who did were more likely to be suffering from moderate to severe symptoms of mental illness. People living in Victoria, in regional areas, and those with children at home were significantly less likely to report adaptive coping strategies. Conclusions: Personal, social, and workplace predictors of coping strategies and help-seeking behaviour during the pandemic were identified. Use of maladaptive coping strategies and low rates of professional help-seeking indicate an urgent need to understand the effectiveness of, and the barriers and enablers of accessing, different coping strategies.


We gratefully acknowledge and thank the Royal Melbourne Hospital Foundation and the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation for financial support for this study. We wish to thank the numerous health organi-sations, universities, professional societies, associations and colleges, and many supportive individuals who assisted in disseminating the survey. We thank the Royal Melbourne Hospital Business Intelligence Unit who provided and hosted the REDCap electronic data capture tools.


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General Hospital Psychiatry




7p. (p. 124-130)





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