One-in-five healthcare workers has experienced depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new systematic review of 65 studies including a total of 97,333 healthcare workers from around the world. The research was published in Plos One.

According to researchers, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges for healthcare workers, with many fearing for their own safety while facing a high workload and limited psychological support. Previous analyses of data from multiple studies have revealed high rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD among healthcare workers during the pandemic. However, those reviews did not adequately address the many relevant studies conducted in China, where the first COVID-19 outbreak occurred.

To address that gap, Li, Scherer, and colleagues carried out a systematic search of studies in both English and Chinese that were conducted from December 2019 to August 2020 and addressed prevalence of mental disorders in healthcare workers. They identified 65 suitable studies from 21 countries, involving a total of 97,333 healthcare workers.

By pooling and statistically analyzing data from all 65 studies, the researchers estimated that 21.7% of the healthcare workers involved in the studies have experienced depression during the pandemic, 22.1% anxiety, and 21.5% PTSD. Studies conducted in the Middle East showed the highest pooled rates of depression (34.6%) and anxiety (28.9%).

These findings suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the mental health of health care workers. For comparison, the World Health Organization estimates that 4.4% of the entire world population experience depression, and 3.6% experience anxiety disorders, including PTSD. However, those estimates were determined through different methods and prior to the pandemic.

Nonetheless, the authors note, the new findings could help inform policy and initiatives to provide urgently needed psychological support to health care workers.

The authors add: “This systematic review and meta-analysis provides, to date, the most comprehensive synthesis of depression, anxiety and PTSD prevalence amongst health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the unique inclusion of publications in both English and Chinese.”