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COVID-19 impacting psychological wellbeing of doctors

19 May 2020

A first-of-its-kind study in the Arab world, on the psychological wellbeing of doctors during COVID-19 outbreak in Oman, has showed that the epidemic has impacted their mental health, especially female and young physicians.  

The psychological well-being of physicians during COVID-19 outbreak in Oman’ study was conducted on 194 physicians (60% females), one-third of whom (29.7%) worked closely with COVID-19 patients.  

“This study, which we believe is the first from the Arab world, showed that COVID-19 impacted physicians’ mental health, especially female and young physicians,” said Abdallah M Badahdah, Department of Sociology & Rural Studies, South Dakota State University, the lead author of the study.  

Badahdah was supported by Faryal Khamis and Nawal al Mahyijarib from The Royal Hospital on the study which was approved by the Research Ethics Committee at the Royal Hospital.  

The study found that females reported more stress than did males. “Two in three female physicians reported a low level of psychological well-being, compared to one in three male physicians. Older physicians experienced greater well-being and a lower level of stress compared to younger ones,” revealed Badahdah. 

Married physicians reported less stress than non-married ones. “It seemed, however, that physicians experienced similar amounts of anxiety regardless of their gender and contact with COVID-19 patients. Both stress and anxiety had a strong effect on the overall well-being of physicians.” 

The mean age of the physicians was 40.72. Most of the participants were married (80.4%), 15% were single, and 4.6% were divorced. 

The study recommends to minimise the impact of COVID-19-related mental and physical health issues.

‘We recommend that health facilities, especially ones that receive COVID-19 patients, set up counseling services for healthcare workers. Equally, health care providers should be cognisant of their own signs of mental health issues and seek help,’ it said. 

The study was carried out using a web-based survey in early April 2020 to examine the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of physicians working at several health facilities in Oman.  

The immediate and prolonged effect of global infectious disease outbreaks on the mental health of health care workers (HCWs) is indisputable. Mental health problems observed among HCWs during COVID-19 and previous international health crises such as SARS and MERS include sleep disturbance, stress, anxiety, and fear of contagion. A study from China (2020) found that a substantial number of HCWs who treated COVID-19 patients suffered from depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress, the study reported. 

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