Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of health-care workers vs the adult general population in South Africa
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University of the Free State South Africa
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1316
Background and Objective:
There has been 3 coronavirus outbreaks within the last 2 decades, SARS in 2003, MERS in 2012, and COVID-19. This review summarized and compared impact of the pandemic on the mental health of health-care workers (HCWs) and general population during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following objectives were addressed: Identify the impact of COVID-19 on HCWs’ and on the general population’s mental health; Compare the mental health impact of COVID-19 on HCWs versus that of the adult general population

A scoping review was conducted. Literature searches on EBSCohost database, which also hosts other databases, produced 143 studies, after duplicates and ineligible studies were assessed, 5 studies met the criteria for synthesis.

The eligible studies found the impact of mental health among HCWs, specifically PTSD, to be more prevalent as opposed to rise of suicide cases among the general population. Both HCWs and general population had an increase of anxiety and depression during the pandemic. Among HCWs, mental health was negatively impacted by loss of infected patients, concern over personal safety, passing infections to family members and exhaustion from long working hours as colleagues contracted COVID-19. The general population had increased cases of anxiety due to fear of contracting the virus and increased levels of depression due to job losses, isolation, loneliness, substance abuse/ withdrawal and fear of the unknown.

Limited access to mental health services and low utilization rates in low resource settings may exacerbate mental health problems during and post-pandemic. There is need to increase community-based awareness and advocacy for mental health. The importance of utilizing lessons learnt in other countries is key to building a robust and responsive strategy. Lessons learnt from other countries include digital mental health support packages established for frontline HCWs using social media online chat groups.

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