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The Weekly Mind Reader: COVID Takes an Emotional Toll on Hospital Staff

The Weekly Mind Reader: COVID Takes an Emotional Toll on Hospital Staff


A new study in The Primary Care Companion of CNS Disorders investigated the psychological toll the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic took on hospital staff in India. It revealed staggering rates of depression, anxiety, and insomnia among clinicians.

Key Findings

To understand how hospital staff, excluding doctors, were feeling, the researchers surveyed 289 hospital employees of a leading tertiary care hospital and research center in Calicut, Kerala. Participants were asked to complete three questionnaires: one to assess depression, another to measure anxiety, and a third to evaluate insomnia levels. The survey was conducted during a two-month period in 2021, when COVID was still straining the country’s medical system. 

The surveys returned some alarming statistics. More than 45 percent of participants reported clinically significant depression. Almost 30 percent experienced clinically significant anxiety. 

Insomnia was also prevalent, with just under 40 percent of participants reported sleep-related difficulties. Participants living with family members reported a higher prevalence of sleep disturbances. Additionally, those with a history of COVID-19 exposure or infection had the most trouble with rest and sleep.

Burden on Nurses

Nurses fared the worst of any group. Nearly half reported clinical depression. Anxiety rates among nurses were 38 percent, nearly 10 points higher than average. And 44 percent of them wrestled with sleep issues. 

Although the study didn’t consider why nurses had such a tough time during the pandemic, it’s easy to speculate why they struggled. Nurses are on the frontlines of patient care. They tend to COVID patients with limited resources and overwhelmed support systems. With direct contact to patients, they bear witness to suffering and loss. On top of their heavy workloads, they often can’t balance family and self care.

The Bottomline

These findings highlight the urgent need to prioritize the mental health of hospital staff, especially nurses. Implementing effective psychological support systems is crucial to address the high prevalence of depression, anxiety, and insomnia among these professionals. Neglecting their mental wellbeing not only affects the lives of healthcare workers, it can also lead to increased medical errors and lower patient satisfaction. 

The biggest takeaway from the study: hospitals must provide resources and interventions that address the unique challenges their clinicians face in any demanding healthcare environment. Prioritizing the mental health of healthcare professionals creates a healthier and more resilient healthcare workforce.


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  • A new book by Richard Brockman, MD chronicles his journey from his mother’s suicide when he was just seven, to his career as a celebrated psychiatrist. 
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