Pandemic Has Stressed Out Doctors

It’s a finding that stands to reason: A new study shows the pandemic has triggered anxiety and depression in many doctors.

Researchers used surveys to assess the mental health of more than 5,000 doctors in Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom at two points during the pandemic — June 2020 and November/December 2020.

Doctors in Italy had the highest rates of anxiety (1 in 4) and of depression (1 in 5) at both points. In Spain, 16% of doctors reported anxiety and about 17% reported depression, while about 12% of U.K. doctors reported anxiety and about 14% reported depression.

In all three countries, female doctors had the highest rates of anxiety and depression, the findings showed. In Italy, female doctors were 60% more likely to report anxiety. In the United Kingdom, female doctors were 54% more likely to report depression.

The study also found that anxiety and depression were more common among doctors younger than 60, those who felt vulnerable or exposed to the coronavirus in their workplace, those who reported below normal health and those who worked 40 hours or more in the previous week.

The study, published Nov. 2 in the journal PLOS ONE, can help guide efforts to protect the mental health of doctors in the current and future pandemics, said study co-author Climent Quintana-Domeque, a professor of economics at the University of Exeter, in the United Kingdom.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been classified as a traumatic event, with health care workers arguably having the most direct and longest exposure to this disease,” Quintana-Domeque said in a university news release.

“Our study identified a high prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms among medical doctors in both the first and second waves of the pandemic,” said Quintana-Domeque. “The results of this study suggest that institutional support for health care workers, and in particular doctors, is important in protecting and promoting their mental health in the current and in future pandemics.”

More information

For more on the mental health of health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, go to Mental Health America.

SOURCE: University of Exeter, news release, Nov. 2, 2021