Healthcare Workers' Mental Health Issues On Rise Since COVID-19: Survey

Healthcare professionals face burnout, harassment, and deteriorating mental health, prompting urgent calls for systemic changes and support

Healthcare workers are grappling with a significant mental health crisis, with unprecedented levels of burnout, harassment, anxiety, and depression reported since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study, which examined data from the General Social Survey Quality of Worklife Module, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, highlights a distressing trend. Over the past four years, healthcare workers saw an increase in self-reported poor mental health, rising from 3.3 days to 4.5 days of poor mental health within the last 30 days. This increase far surpassed that observed in other professions.

A particularly concerning aspect of the findings was the surge in healthcare workers frequently experiencing burnout. In 2018, 11.6 per cent reported feeling burnout very often, a figure that jumped to 19.0 per cent in 2022. Overall, 45.6 per cent of healthcare workers felt burnout often or very often in 2022, up from 31.9 per cent in 2018.

Harassment emerged as another significant issue plaguing healthcare workers, with a stark increase in incidents reported in 2022 compared to 2018. The harassment included threats, bullying, verbal abuse, or actions from patients or colleagues contributing to a hostile work environment. Alarmingly, those who faced harassment were more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and burnout.

The survey found that 31 per cent of healthcare workers who did not experience harassment reported feeling depressed, while a staggering 60 per cent of those who did experience harassment reported the same.

The CDC's report suggests that the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the mental health issues faced by healthcare workers, leading many to consider leaving or having already left their positions. Dr. L. Casey Chosewood, director of the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's Office for Total Worker Health, emphasized that healthcare workers are not immune to the challenges faced by other professionals and called for addressing the systemic issues at play.

Dr. Debra Houry, the CDC's Chief Medical Officer, stressed that creating supportive work environments and policies is crucial in safeguarding the mental health of healthcare workers and ensuring their well-being.

The study also revealed that healthcare workers were less likely to experience burnout when they reported trusting management, receiving supervisor support, having sufficient time to complete their work, and feeling that their workplace supported productivity. To improve working conditions, the CDC recommended that employers involve healthcare workers in decision-making processes, monitor staffing needs, and take harassment reports seriously. The findings underline the urgency of addressing these challenges and providing comprehensive support to the healthcare workforce.

Tags assigned to this article:
burnout healthcare depression & anxiety COVID-19 Pandemic


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