Research confirms impact of Covid-19 on doctors’ mental health

Experts warn of dangers to staff and the importance of support for clinicians

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 03 November 2021 01:04 GMT
<p>Doctors were left depressed and anxious following Covid-19 </p>

Doctors were left depressed and anxious following Covid-19

The Covid-19 crisis triggered high levels of anxiety and depression among doctors in the UK, Italy and Spain, a new study has found

The research of 5,000 survey responses, across the three countries, found Italian doctors were most likely to have suffered during the crisis last year.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, measured the mental wellbeing of doctors in Catalonia (Spain), Italy and the UK during June, November and December 2020.

It found that around one in four medical doctors in Italy had experienced symptoms of anxiety in June and December 2020, with around one in five reporting symptoms of depression over the same period.

In Catalonia around 16 per cent of doctors reported anxiety and around 17 per cent experienced depression. In the UK around 12 per cent of doctors reported anxiety and around 14 per cent had symptoms of depression.

The study is among the first cross-country analysis of mental wellbeing among healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic and the first to focus on medical doctors.

Across all countries, female doctors were more likely to have anxiety or depression. In Italy there was a 60 per cent higher chance of female doctors reporting anxiety symptoms, compared with 54 per cent in the UK.

Doctors under 60 were more likely to experience anxiety and depression in each of the three countries, and a link was also found between perceptions of workplace safety and mental health.

Clinicians from the three countries who felt vulnerable or exposed in their workplace to the virus, all had greater odds of anxiety and poor mental health. Doctors who had worked 40 hours or more in the previous week also had higher odds of showing symptoms.

Professor Quintana-Domeque, professor of economics at the University of Exeter Business School, who carried out the study said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been classified as a traumatic event, with healthcare workers arguably having the most direct and longest exposure to this disease.

“Our study identified a high prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms among medical doctors in both the first and second waves of the pandemic, and the similar patterns across countries suggest that our findings may be applicable to other European settings.

“The results of this study suggest that institutional support for healthcare workers, and in particular doctors, is important in protecting and promoting their mental health in the current and in future pandemics.”

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