Mental health issues on rise among frontline healthcare staff, study reveals
According to a new study from the University of East Anglia, mental health issues, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, and depression are common among healthcare staff during and immediately after the pandemic.
The study — ‘The prevalence of common and stress-related mental health disorders in healthcare workers based in pandemic-affected hospitals: a rapid systematic review and meta-analysis’ — was published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology on October 16.
In the study, the researchers investigated how treating patients in past pandemics such as SARS and MERS affected the mental health of front-line staff.
The team found that almost a quarter of health-care workers (23.4 per cent) experienced PTSD symptoms during the most intense ‘acute’ phase of previous pandemic outbreaks. While 11.9 per cent of carers experience the symptoms even after a year.
They also examined information on the elevated levels of mental distress. The researchers found that more than a third of health workers (34.1 per cent) experienced symptoms such as anxiety or depression during the acute phase, dropping to 17.9 per cent after six months. This figure, however, increased again to 29.3 per cent after 12 months or longer.
Prof Richard Meiser-Stedman, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said in a statement: “We know that Covid-19 poses unprecedented challenges to the NHS and to healthcare staff worldwide.”
“Nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, and all support staff based in hospitals where patients with Covid-19 are treated are facing considerable pressure, over a sustained period,” he added.
The researchers stated that the challenge of treating a large number of critically ill patients, front-line staff also have to fight the risk of contracting the virus, especially when the world is running short of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Prof Stedman added: “We estimated the prevalence of common mental health disorders in health care workers based in pandemic-affected hospitals. And we hope our work will help inform hospital managers of the level of resources required to support staff through these difficult times.”
The researchers also noted that they didn’t find any differences between doctors and nurses experiencing PTSD or other psychiatric conditions. However, they also said that the data at their disposal was limited and more research is needed to explore the mental health issues.
“Overall, there are not enough studies examining the impact of pandemics on the mental health of healthcare staff. More research is needed that focusses on Covid-19 specifically and looks at the mental health of healthcare workers longer-term,” she added.