Background Healthcare workers (HCWs) from COVID-19 pandemic hotspots across the globe have reported mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, or sleep problems. Many studies have focused on identifying modifiable risk factors, such as being afraid of getting infected or reporting shortage of personal protective equipment, but none have explored the role of protective factors.
Method This cross-sectional study used an online survey to describe the association between three potentially protective factors (self-reported resilience, self-perceived social support from colleagues at work, and self-perceived social support from relatives and friends) and three mental health outcomes, namely psychological distress, depression symptoms, and death thoughts in a large sample of Spanish HCWs during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Results We recruited 2372 respondents between April 26th and June 22nd, 2020. Resilience and self-perceived social support were inversely associated with mental health problems (psychological distress, depression symptoms, and death thoughts), after adjusting for potential sources of confounding.
Conclusions Resilience and self-perceived social support might protect HCWs against negative mental health outcomes. Public health strategies targeting these modifiable determinants might help to reduce the impact of the pandemic on HCWs’ mental health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced health services around the world to perform major transformations, such as reorganizations of health care facilities - including deployment of field hospitals - or redistributions of healthcare workers (HCWs) (Armocida et al., 2020; Legido-Quigley et al., 2020). Accordingly, HCWs have experienced substantial exposure to risk factors for psychological distress since the initial pandemic outbreak, including elevated risk of contagion and inadequate access to protective equipment, increased workload and extension of working hours, requirements to prioritize patients due to limited hospital acute-care capacity, etc. (Cai et al., 2020). There is a large body of evidence indicating that HCWs experienced a variety of mental health problems, such as hyperarousal, anger, sleep problems, anxiety, or depression, during the initial phases of the pandemic (Lai et al., 2020; Pappa et al., 2020; Santabarbara ´ et al., 2021; Wu et al., 2021). In a study including a large sample of HCWs in Spain, nearly half of respondents screened positive for at least one of the following common mental disorders: panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, and substance use disorders (Alonso et al., 2021). Notwithstanding, the potential role of individual-level protective factors, such as resilience factors and different forms of social support, on HCWs’ mental health outcomes during the pandemic remain relatively unexplored, despite important implications to guide mental health responses to the pandemic.