The Association Between Exposure to COVID-19 and Mental Health Outcomes Among Healthcare Workers

D. Czepiel, H.W. Hoek, A. van der Markt, B.P.F. Rutten, W. Veling, F. Schirmbeck, F. Mascayano, E.S. Susser, E. van der Ven*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


Due to the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health care systems, there has been great interest in the mental wellbeing of healthcare workers. While most studies investigated mental health outcomes among frontline vs. non-frontline healthcare workers, little is known about the impact of various work-related variables. The present study aimed to examine the association between work-related [i.e., having contact with COVID-19 patients, being redeployed due to the pandemic and availability of sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE)] and subjective (i.e., worries about getting infected or infecting others) exposures and self-reported mental health outcomes (i.e., psychological distress, depressive symptoms, and posttraumatic stress symptoms). Between February and May 2021, 994 healthcare workers employed at a variety of healthcare settings in the Netherlands filled out an online survey as part of the COVID-19 HEalth caRe wOrkErS (HEROES) study. Mental health outcomes were measured using the General Health Questionnaire-12, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, and the Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5. Approximately 13% reported depressive symptoms, 37% experienced psychological distress, and 20% reported posttraumatic stress symptoms. Multilevel linear models consisted of three levels: individual (work-related and subjective exposures), healthcare center (aggregated redeployment and availability of sufficient PPE), and regional (cumulative COVID-19 infection and death rates). Worries about infection were associated with all three mental health outcomes, whereas insufficient PPE was associated with psychological distress and depressive symptoms. There were no differences in outcomes between healthcare centers or provinces with different COVID-19 infection and death rates. Our findings highlight the importance of adequate PPE provision and the subjective experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. These factors should be part of interventions aimed at mitigating adverse mental health outcomes among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Article number896843
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2022


  • COVID-19
  • depression
  • healthcare workers (HCWs)
  • mental health
  • personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • posttraumatic stress
  • psychological distress

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