La Trobe
1181220_Smallwood,N_2021.pdf (369.53 kB)
Download file

High levels of psychosocial distress among Australian frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional survey

Download (369.53 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 27.09.2021, 08:08 authored by N Smallwood, Leila KarimiLeila Karimi, M Bismark, M Putland, D Johnson, SC Dharmage, E Barson, N Atkin, C Long, I Ng, Anne HollandAnne Holland, JE Munro, I Thevarajan, C Moore, Anthony McGillionAnthony McGillion, D Sandford, Karen WillisKaren Willis
Background The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had a profound and prolonged impact on healthcare services and healthcare workers. Aims The Australian COVID-19 Frontline Healthcare Workers Study aimed to investigate the severity and prevalence of mental health issues, as well as the social, workplace and financial disruptions experienced by Australian healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods A nationwide, voluntary, anonymous, single timepoint, online survey was conducted between 27 August and 23 October 2020. Individuals self-identifying as frontline healthcare workers in secondary or primary care were invited to participate. Participants were recruited through health organisations, professional associations or colleges, universities, government contacts and national media. Demographics, home and work situation, health and psychological well-being data were collected. Results A total of 9518 survey responses were received; of the 9518 participants, 7846 (82.4%) participants reported complete data. With regard to age, 4110 (52.4%) participants were younger than 40 years; 6344 (80.9%) participants were women. Participants were nurses (n=3088, 39.4%), doctors (n=2436, 31.1%), allied health staff (n=1314, 16.7%) or in other roles (n=523, 6.7%). In addition, 1250 (15.9%) participants worked in primary care. Objectively measured mental health symptoms were common: mild to severe anxiety (n=4694, 59.8%), moderate to severe burnout (n=5458, 70.9%) and mild to severe depression (n=4495, 57.3%). Participants were highly resilient (mean (SD)=3.2 (0.66)). Predictors for worse outcomes on all scales included female gender; younger age; pre-existing psychiatric condition; experiencing relationship problems; nursing, allied health or other roles; frontline area; being worried about being blamed by colleagues and working with patients with COVID-19. Conclusions The COVID-19 pandemic is associated with significant mental health symptoms in frontline healthcare workers. Crisis preparedness together with policies and practices addressing psychological well-being are needed.


Publication Date



General Psychiatry





Article Number








Rights Statement

The Author reserves all moral rights over the deposited text and must be credited if any re-use occurs. Documents deposited in OPAL are the Open Access versions of outputs published elsewhere. Changes resulting from the publishing process may therefore not be reflected in this document. The final published version may be obtained via the publisher’s DOI. Please note that additional copyright and access restrictions may apply to the published version.

Usage metrics