Psychological distress and resilience in first responders and health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Source avec lien : Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, (Prépublication), . 10.1111/joop.12364

Pendant la pandémie de COVID-19, les premiers intervenants et les travailleurs de la santé ont été confrontés à des risques élevés liés au virus en raison de contacts prolongés avec le public. Les recherches suggèrent que ces travailleurs connaissaient déjà des niveaux inférieurs de bien-être psychologique liés aux risques professionnels. Ainsi, l’impact de la pandémie pourrait avoir particulièrement affecté la santé mentale de ces groupes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, first responders and health care workers faced elevated virus-related risks through prolonged contacts with the public. Research suggests that these workers already experienced lower levels of psychological well-being linked to occupational risks. Thus, the pandemic’s impact might have particularly affected mental health in these groups. This paper analysed data from a large-scale Welsh population study (N = 12,989) from June to July 2020. Levels of psychological distress were compared across various occupations, including police, fire and rescue, and NHS health care workers. Resilience was also indexed, and its role considered as a protective factor for psychological distress. Surprisingly, health care workers reported lower distress levels than the general population. Further, fire and rescue and police groups had lower distress than most groups and significantly higher resilience. Within police officers, higher resilience levels were protective for distress. Fire and rescue workers were half as likely as others to report distress, even accounting for demographic factors and resilience. The findings offer an optimistic view of psychological resilience in these critical occupations. They illustrate potential benefits to one’s mental health of playing a crucial societal role during crises and reiterate the importance of enhancing resilience within groups who encounter high-risk situations daily. Practitioner points Our findings provide evidence that health care workers and first responders showed lower levels of psychological distress than the general population during the first period of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. This may indicate that playing a critical role in society during an episode of crisis, and acting to help others, may be protective of one’s own mental health. The research also provides an optimistic view of the psychological resilience of critical first responders and health care workers during a period early on in the COVID-19 pandemic (June–July 2020). This highlights the benefits of fostering resilience in those working within high-risk first responder and health care occupations.

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