- An observational study examined data from around 34,000 physicians in Ottawa, Canada.
- Researchers found physicians participated in nearly 26% more mental health and substance use visits during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the year prior.
- The study team believes the increase is attributable to both increased stressors during the pandemic and additional access to mental health services through virtual outpatient options.
There is no denying the fact the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the mental health of people worldwide. A recent study found the pandemic increased cases of major depressive disorder by 53 million and anxiety disorders by 76 million globally.
But for those working on the front lines of the pandemic — such as healthcare workers — how has the situation affected their mental health?
A team of researchers from the University of Ottawa Department of Family Medicine and The Ottawa Hospital in Canada is helping answer that question. Their new study has found a link between the pandemic and the number of outpatient healthcare visits physicians participated in for mental health and substance use concerns.
Researchers believe their study results will help shed light on the need for increased mental health services for the medical community.
The results from this population-based cohort study appear in
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, studies showed an elevated rate of mental health issues among healthcare workers. One such
Interestingly, other studies have linked higher levels of substance misuse issues to healthcare professionals. According to American Addiction Centers, approximately 4.4% of medical workers have a problem with heavy alcohol consumption. And about 5.5% of healthcare personnel experience illicit drug use.
Dr. Daniel Myran, a family physician, public health and preventive medicine specialist, and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa Department of Family Medicine and The Ottawa Hospital, is the lead author of this current study.
According to him, multiple surveys have found high levels of mental distress in healthcare workers, including physicians, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“However, because these surveys generally look at one or two points in time, it limits our understanding of whether these concerning rates of mental distress reflect a worsening during COVID-19 or reflect pre-pandemic baselines,” Dr. Myran told Medical News Today. “In addition, most surveys have low response rates, which raises concerns that their results may not represent the overall mental health of physicians.”
The team addressed this by taking an alternative approach, looking at changes in mental health care-related visits that physicians made during the pandemic. “Because we were able to follow mental health visits before and during the pandemic, we were able to quantify how visits