AsianScientist (Jun. 9, 2020) – A survey of hundreds of Chinese doctors has shown evidence of the mental toll faced by frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like study participants the year before, 385 first-year medical residents in Shanghai entering 12 hospitals in August 2019 agreed to track their mood daily on a smartphone app, and every few months answer standardized questionnaires about their mental health and whether they had experienced, observed or feared physical or verbal violence in their workplace.
Little did they know that their data would give some of the clearest indications yet of the potential mental toll of being a frontline healthcare worker in the time of COVID-19.
The research team, led by Prof. Srijan Sen of the University of Michigan, tracked changes in scores between the surveys that the residents took in October and November 2019, and the ones they took in January and February 2020, as the pandemic reached its peak in China. It also measured changes in daily mood between those two quarters.
Findings from the study, which were published in JAMA Network Open, showed that the doctors experienced a sharp drop in mood, a rise in depression and anxiety symptoms, and a doubling of their fear of workplace violence, in just the first month of the pandemic.
The rise in symptoms among first-year medical residents in Shanghai contrasts with data from members of the previous year’s crop of residents, who took part in the same study from 2018 to 2019. Where this year’s class saw sharp change across most measures of mental health and workplace violence during the first half of the training year, last year’s class had stable scores at the same point in their training.
“Our findings indicate that the negative mental health effects of COVID-19 are not limited to physicians working at the center of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, but extend to other places like Shanghai, which is 500 miles away,” says Prof. Li Weidong of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who was the co-first and co-corresponding author on the study.
The article can be found at: Li et al. (2020) Mental Health of Young Physicians in China During the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak.
Source: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan; Photo: H Shaw/Unsplash.
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