Depression and Anxiety Ruled Health Workers During COVID-19

The world appreciated the work of Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers at the time of Covid 19. But what about their state of mind during the pandemic times? A review, published in the British Journal of General Practice says that the pandemic left many General Practitioners around the world feeling depressed, anxious and in some cases burned out.

The study led by the University of York also found that women doctors in primary care reported more psychological problems, whilst those who are older reported greater stress and burnout. The Researchers reviewed research literature and identified 31 studies evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and wellbeing of doctors in primary care.

STRESS ELEMENT COMMON

Though the Healthcare systems vary across countries, the mental condition of health care practitioners was the same across the world. The stress elements during the pandemic included changed working practices, inadequate PPE, exposure to COVID-19, overload, lack of preparedness for the pandemic and poor communication across health sectors.

FEAR

The various studies also showed an impact on primary care doctors’ psychological wellbeing, with some experiencing a fear of COVID-19 and lower job satisfaction. A third of the studies also explored physical symptoms – with GPs reporting migraines and headaches, tiredness and exhaustion, sleep disorders and increased eating, drinking and smoking. One UK study which focused on GPs with symptoms of long COVID found GPs felt let down and expressed frustration at the lack of support and recognition for the condition.

Study author, Dr Laura Jefferson from the Department of Health Sciences said: “Many General Practitioners (GPs) have reported stress and burnout over recent years, which is potentially damaging not just to doctors themselves, but also to patients and healthcare systems. While there has been a tendency for research like this to focus on hospital roles, there was a need to synthesise evidence and explore factors associated with GPs mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. This is the first systematic review exploring the psychological wellbeing of primary care doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The review mentions that seven studies reported statistically significant differences in outcomes for women GPs, including higher stress levels, greater reporting of burden, burnout and anxiety. Older age was associated with higher stress levels in three studies. The review called for policy and infrastructure to support General Practioners and further research to explore gender and age differences. This report was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care NIHR Policy Research Programme.

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