Health Workers Face a Mental Health Crisis | VitalSigns | CDC – CDC

Health worker jobs in the U.S. involve demanding and sometimes dangerous duties, including exposure to infectious diseases and violence from patients and their families. The COVID-19 pandemic presented even more stressors. These included a surge of patients, longer working hours, and shortages of supplies and protective equipment. Health workers are reporting feeling fatigue, loss, and grief at levels higher than before the pandemic.
This Vital Signs report contains an analysis from the CDC Quality of Worklife survey focused on well-being and working conditions, comparing data from 2018 to 2022. This timeline captures data before and after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also compared health workers with two other groups: essential workers and all other workers across industries.* Reports of poor mental health symptoms increased more for health workers than for other worker groups.
Health workers reported fewer mental health issues when they said they work in supportive environments. Factors that may make workplaces more supportive include:

Health workers were more likely to report poor working conditions than other workers.

Health workers reported more poor mental health days than other workers.

Supportive workplaces may lessen mental distress health workers experience.

Health workers were more likely to report poor working conditions than other workers.

Health workers reported more poor mental health days than other workers.

Supportive workplaces may lessen mental distress health workers experience.
Health worker jobs in the U.S. involve demanding and sometimes dangerous duties, including exposure to infectious diseases and violence from patients and their families. The COVID-19 pandemic presented even more stressors. These included a surge of patients, longer working hours, and shortages of supplies and protective equipment. Health workers are reporting feeling fatigue, loss, and grief at levels higher than before the pandemic.
This Vital Signs report contains an analysis from the CDC Quality of Worklife survey focused on well-being and working conditions, comparing data from 2018 to 2022. This timeline captures data before and after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also compared health workers with two other groups: essential workers and all other workers across industries.* Reports of poor mental health symptoms increased more for health workers than for other worker groups.
Health workers reported fewer mental health issues when they said they work in supportive environments. Factors that may make workplaces more supportive include:
Health workers were more likely than workers in other sectors to report poor working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specific aspects of health work added to this disparity. The study showed how symptoms of poor mental health and negative workplace conditions increased among health workers from 2018 to 2022 compared to other worker groups:
Health workers reported higher levels of poor mental health days, burnout, intent to change jobs (turnover intention) and being harassed at work in 2022 compared to 2018.
Health Workers Had Worse Outcomes in 2022 Compared to 2018
Health workers reported higher levels of poor mental health days, burnout, intent to change jobs (turnover intention) and being harassed at work in 2022 compared to 2018.
Poor Mental Health Days
Past 30 days
Health Workers
2018: 3 days
2022: 5 days
Other Essential Workers
2018: 4 days
2022: 4 days
All Other Workers
2018: 4 days
2022: 4 days
Burnout
% of workers
Health Workers
2018: 32%
2022: 46%
Other Essential Workers
2018: 39%
2022: 40%
All Other Workers
2018: 34%
2022: 37%
Turnover Intention
% of workers
Health Workers
2018: 33%
2022: 44%
Other Essential Workers
2018: 40%
2022: 32%
All Other Workers
2018: 48%
2022: 39%
Harassed at Work
% of workers
Health Workers
2018: 6%
2022: 13%
Other Essential Workers
2018: 8%
2022: 11%
All Other Workers
2018: 7%
2022: 7%
Health workers who experienced harassment were more likely to report burnout, depression, and anxiety, compared with those who did not.
Health workers who experienced harassment were more likely to report burnout, depression, and anxiety, compared with those who did not.
Harassment Is Linked to Poorer Mental Health
Health workers who experienced harassment were more likely to report burnout, depression, and anxiety, compared with those who did not.
Did Experience Harassment
Reported feelings of anxiety 85%
Reported feelings of depression 60%
Reported feelings of burnout 81%
Did Not Experience Harassment
Reported feelings of anxiety 53%
Reported feelings of depression 31%
Reported feelings of burnout 42%
Improving workplace policies and practices may also improve worker well-being. Here are 6 tips to get started.
Employers Can Take Steps to Address These Problems Now
Improving workplace policies and practices may also improve worker well-being. Here are 6 tips to get started.
Model and support taking time off.
Include workers in decision-making.
Value worker safety and health.
Assign a senior leader to promote staff well-being.
Ensure adequate staffing.
Train supervisors to provide support.
How health workers viewed their workplace had a big impact on their stress from the COVID-19 pandemic. When they reported trusting their management, health workers had fewer symptoms of burnout. This shows that positive, supportive workplaces may act as a buffer and lessen the mental distress health workers experience.
Health workers’ mental health, under unprecedented strain from the pandemic, demands immediate attention and decisive action. The Vital Signs study is a wake-up call to the pressing need to support the mental health of health workers. By understanding which working conditions harm mental health, employers can address these work-related factors and promote worker well-being.
Employers can:
Supervisors and workers can:
Everyone can:
*Health workers include registered nurses, home health and personal care aides, licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses, nursing assistants and orderlies, physicians and surgeons, pharmacy technicians, dental and vision staff, and many other types of workers. Worker classifications were adapted from categories and industries defined by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP; Interim List of Categories of Essential Workers Mapped to Standardized Industry Codes and Titles). North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, published by CDC, were cross-referenced with industry codes for respondents’ employment provided in the General Social Survey. Health workers include those in the health occupations described above; other essential workers include frontline, non-healthcare workers; “all other workers” include all remaining workers.
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