High levels of psychosocial distress among Australian frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional survey
journal contributionposted on 27.09.2021, 08:08 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.