Over 1 in 5 health care workers experience depression and anxiety during the pandemic, study says

Staggering numbers of health care workers -- more than one in five -- have experienced anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder during the pandemic, new research has revealed.

Posted: Mar 11, 2021 2:28 PM

(CNN) -- Staggering numbers of health care workers -- more than one in five -- have experienced anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder during the pandemic, new research has revealed.

Health care workers have been working for long hours under strenuous conditions. Because of this, Nathaniel Scherer, co-lead author of the systematic review and meta-analysis published Wednesday in PLOS One, said he was not surprised by the numbers.

"Previous evidence has shown that these experiences can lead to stress, fatigue and burnout, which can increase the risk of common mental disorders," said Scherer, a research assistant at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Researchers analyzed 65 studies that together included over 97,000 people for the global study. Their analysis broke down the numbers by region and found health care workers in the Middle East had the highest rates of anxiety and depression, with 28.9% and 34.6% experiencing those mental health challenges, respectively.

"The Middle-East experienced a high number of patients with COVID-19, and it may be that this caseload put additional strain on healthcare professionals," Scherer said via email.

North America ranked the lowest, with 14.8% of health care workers experiencing anxiety and 18.7% experiencing depression.

However, only seven studies analyzed data from the Middle East and two from North America, so Scherer said it's important to be cautious when interpreting the results.

Researchers took the average of results from nine of the 65 studies to estimate that 21.5% of health care workers across all regions experienced moderate levels of PTSD.

But it isn't always easy for health care workers to reach out for help. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said last May it can be hard for people to recognize the psychological toll on frontline workers.

In his "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction" podcast, Gupta said "... it's always struck me that even within the medical community, there is still a stigma about seeking therapy, seeking mental health support. Yet it's so important, maybe never more important, than it is right now."

The pandemic has frontline workers "running a marathon at sprint speed, with no end in sight," said emergency physician and CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, who is also a visiting professor at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She explained people need to understand mental health as being no different from physical health and make it a priority.

As the pandemic progresses, Shekhar Saxena, professor of the practice of global mental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said it will be important to track these numbers over time and include data on burnout, suicide attempts and deaths, which weren't included in this study.

In addition to providing treatment and resources for health care workers, Scherer said research needs to be done on which aspects of the pandemic are causing the stresses in the first place.

"We could investigate the association between working hours and elevated symptoms as one example," he said.

Saxena, who was not involved in the study, said studying these associations can lead to "organization actions," or actions a workplace can take to create an environment that limits excessive stress.

Another part of the solution is to speak directly with health care workers to understand their struggles, he said.

The key is ensuring an approach that "values the perspective and input from healthcare professionals alongside that of expert mental health specialists," Scherer said in an email.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Terre Haute
Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 74°
Robinson
Cloudy
71° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 71°
Indianapolis
Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 73°
Rockville
Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 69°
Casey
Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Brazil
Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 74°
Marshall
Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 74°
Showers early today!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1388634

Reported Deaths: 25566
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook55620110461
DuPage923681316
Will769181032
Lake683491014
Kane59419807
Winnebago34106506
Madison30930526
McHenry29182294
St. Clair28316519
Peoria23443342
Champaign21100154
Sangamon19094240
McLean18553187
Tazewell17227305
Rock Island15245329
Kankakee14550217
Kendall1327899
LaSalle12779250
Macon10997211
DeKalb10116121
Vermilion10021142
Adams8677126
Williamson7595134
Whiteside7199174
Boone683677
Ogle620683
Grundy598678
Clinton578991
Coles5770100
Knox5642153
Jackson510065
Henry507870
Livingston489691
Woodford483282
Stephenson481985
Macoupin478288
Effingham476872
Franklin454178
Marion4513117
Jefferson4422122
Monroe438094
Lee419354
Randolph416487
Fulton405159
Logan396964
Morgan393482
Christian383875
Montgomery379474
Bureau378383
Fayette322555
Perry320360
Iroquois313867
McDonough290851
Jersey271652
Douglas260636
Saline260357
Lawrence241127
Shelby232638
Union228141
Crawford214525
Bond208724
Cass203527
Ford188948
Warren184148
Clark183733
Jo Daviess182724
Pike181853
Wayne181053
Hancock180631
Carroll178337
Richland176940
Edgar176740
White170626
Washington164825
Moultrie163128
De Witt157229
Mason154145
Piatt152414
Clay149643
Mercer149334
Johnson147616
Greene145134
Massac135840
Wabash135612
Cumberland130119
Menard125012
Jasper116718
Marshall108119
Hamilton84215
Schuyler7797
Brown7286
Pulaski7007
Stark64824
Edwards57712
Calhoun5302
Henderson52814
Scott4881
Putnam4863
Alexander47411
Gallatin4694
Hardin39112
Pope3284
Out of IL350
Unassigned02433

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 751242

Reported Deaths: 13795
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1032931788
Lake556911009
Allen41692692
St. Joseph36990565
Hamilton36588417
Elkhart29398461
Tippecanoe22901226
Vanderburgh22556400
Porter19356325
Johnson18471389
Hendricks17682317
Clark13226195
Madison13149344
Vigo12614253
LaPorte12419221
Monroe12207176
Delaware10966198
Howard10321225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8576146
Bartholomew8169157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7811180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6966103
Morgan6761141
Dubois6218118
Marshall6209116
Cass6016110
Henry5900110
Dearborn589878
Noble581488
Jackson509076
Shelby501496
Lawrence4742122
Gibson444894
Clinton442355
Harrison441875
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438090
Whitley406543
Huntington402681
Steuben400159
Miami395269
Jasper388054
Knox375991
Putnam372960
Wabash361983
Ripley347170
Adams345555
Jefferson335886
White331953
Daviess3033100
Wells295281
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246036
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228058
Fountain220948
Sullivan214643
Owen211858
Fulton202942
Jay200932
Carroll193620
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166246
Parke149416
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120647
Newton113936
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101714
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420