Mental health risks differentially associated with immunocompromised status among healthcare workers and family members at the pandemic outset

The mental health of healthcare workers (HCWs) is critical to their long-term well-being and future disaster preparedness. Goal 1 of this study was to identify rates of mental health problems experienced by HCWs. Goal 2 was to test a model of risk stemming from pandemic-related stressors and vulnerability factors.


This cross-sectional study included HCWs (N ¼ 2,246 [1,573 clinical providers; 673 non-clinical staff]) in the Rocky Mountain West who voluntarily completed an online survey in April/May 2020. Respondents completed measures for traumatic stress symptoms, depression, anxiety, alcohol use, and sleep. Logistic regressions stratified by professional role (clinical versus non-clinical) were specified to predict clinical screening cutoff (positive/negative) as a function of five pandemic-related stressors (immunocompromised self; immunocompromised household member; care provision to infected patients; clinical management role; positive cases).


Results showed that more than half of HCWs surveyed (52.5%) screened positive (above cutoff) for traumatic stress, depression, or anxiety, with ~20% reporting problematic alcohol use, and variable insufficient sleep from ~10% off shift to ~50% on shift. Clinical employees with an immunocompromised  ousehold member had increased odds of screening positive for a mental health problem. Non-clinical HCWs who were immunocompromised were at elevated risk for screening positive a mental health problem. Being female, minority status, and younger increased odds for mental health problems.


Implications include alleviating a portion of the mental health burden of HCWs involved in response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic by considering policies to protect immunocompromised HCWs and their families (e.g., vaccine priorities, telework options).

Andrew J. Smith, Hannah Wright, Brandon J. Griffin, Anandi C. Ehman, Kotaro Shoji, Tiffany M. Love, Ellen Morrow, Amy Locke, Megan Call, Patricia K. Kerig, Miranda Olff, Charles C. Benight, Scott A. Langenecker | 2021
In: Brain, Behavior & Immunity ; ISSN: 0889-1591 | 15 | june | 100285
Affected Populations, Alcohol Abuse, Anxiety Disorders, COVID-19 (en), Depressive Disorders, Exposure, Family Members, Females, Immunological Symptoms, Males, Medical Personnel, Mental health, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Sleep Disorders, Social Workers, Stressors, Traumatic events
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