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Mental health issues among healthcare workers on the rise

A new review of 65 studies from around the world finds that one in five have experienced depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD during the covid-19 pandemic

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of a covid-19 vaccine in Saint-Mande, southeast of Paris. (REUTERS)

"The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to provide updated prevalence estimates for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic," say researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, U.K., who conducted a new systematic review of 65 studies from around the world, involving a total of 97,333 healthcare workers and found that 1 in 5 have experienced depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. The researchers, Yufei Li, Nathaniel Scherer and colleagues, presented these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on March 10.

The pandemic has posed significant challenges for healthcare workers, with fears for their own health while facing high workloads and limited psychological support. Previous analyses of data from multiple studies have revealed high rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD among healthcare workers during the pandemic. However, those reviews did not adequately address the many relevant studies conducted in China, where the first covid-19 outbreak occurred.

To address that gap, Li, Scherer, and colleagues carried out a systematic search of studies in both English and Chinese that were conducted from December 2019 to August 2020 and addressed prevalence of mental disorders in health care workers. They identified 65 suitable studies from 21 countries, involving a total of 97,333 health care workers. By pooling and statistically analyzing data from all 65 studies, the researchers estimated that 21.7% of the healthcare workers involved in the studies have experienced depression during the pandemic, 22.1% anxiety, and 21.5% PTSD. Studies conducted in the Middle East showed the highest pooled rates of depression (34.6%) and anxiety (28.9%).

These findings suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the mental health of health care workers. For comparison, the World Health Organization estimates that 4.4 percent of the entire world population experience depression, and 3.6 percent experience anxiety disorders, including PTSD. However, those estimates were determined through different methods and prior to the pandemic.

Nonetheless, the authors note, the new findings could help inform policy and initiatives to provide urgently needed psychological support to health care workers.

The authors add: "This systematic review and meta-analysis provides, to date, the most comprehensive synthesis of depression, anxiety and PTSD prevalence amongst health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the unique inclusion of publications in both English and Chinese."

The results of the study were published in PLOS One journal.

    11.03.2021 | 03:25 PM IST

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