The fight against covid-19 leads to depression in one in three health workers

  • Almost half of the group has a high risk of mental disorder and 3.5%, some suicidal ideation

  • The impact is greater among nursing assistants: two out of three are at greater risk of alterations

The health and economic crisis have increased the curve of another pandemic, the quietest of all: that of the mental health disorders. But, although covid-19 affects the entire general population, it is specifically targeting the sanitary. After the first wave of the pandemic (whose peak spanned the months of March and April), 28.1% of health workers in Spain suffered depression; a 22.5%, anxiety disorder; almost one in four, panic; 22.2%, posttraumatic stress; and a little more than 6%, substance abuse.

These are the results of two studies conducted through professional surveys (the project ‘Mindcovid’) of 18 hospitals of six autonomous communities: Andalusia, the Basque Country, Castilla y León, Catalunya, Madrid and the Valencian Community. These studies, led by researchers from the Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdiques (IMIM) and doctors from the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, ​​have been published in ‘Journal of Psychiatry and Mental Health’ and in ‘Depression & Anxiety’. Both are based on anonymous surveys conducted between May and July, in which they participated 9.138 health throughout Spain.

Depression affects health workers up to six times more than the general population before the pandemic

“The most common disorder is major depression. 28% of health workers suffer from it, a figure six times greater than that of the general population before the pandemic “, certifies this newspaper Jordi Alonso, main author of the work, director of the Epidemiology Program of the IMIM-Hospital del Mar and scientific co-director of the CIBER in Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP).

High risk

According to these investigations, a 45,7% (almost half) of the group presented, after the first wave, a high risk for some type of mental disorder, that is, it required a professional evaluation to confirm the presence of a mental disorder. Furthermore, a 3,5% presented a active suicidal ideation (death wishes and persistent thoughts of wanting to kill oneself), a figure that contrasts with between 0.7% and 0.9% estimated for the general population before the pandemic. In addition, there have been 0.1% in suicide attempts.

The prevalence of mental disorders is higher in young health workers, not born in Spain and not married

The prevalence of mental disorders is higher in the case of young women, not born in Spain and not married. The nursing assistants show a bigger impact. Two out of three assistants are at high risk for mental disorders, as do half of the nurses. In addition, there is more prevalence among those professionals exposed to covid patients and among those who have suffered from the disease or have had infected relatives.

“Extensive and intense”

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“The magnitude of the damage is striking. Besides being extensive, it is an intense problem”, Alonso maintains. According to him, in the coming months the results of other studies will be published to find out what the impact of the second wave in the mental health of the toilets. “There we can know the dynamics,” he says. “My expectation is that part of this phenomenon has been reactive and goes down. But we will soon know what happened in the second wave.”

80% of the respondents were directly involved in the caring for patients with covid-19, even though only 43% were in contact for most of the time. In 13.4% of the cases, a member of the immediate family was infected and, in one of every four, the professional had to confine himself or remain in quarantine. In addition, four in 10 reported having suffered from some type of mental disorder before the pandemic.

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