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A new study found that 40% of about 700 medical workers in the U.K., caring for the most dire coronavirus patients, hit the threshold for developing post-traumatic stress disorder, among other pressing mental health concerns.
This almost certainly hinders the care they can give -- at a time when patients need it the most -- researchers say.
COPING WITH POST-HOLIDAY BLUES AMID CORONAVIRUS: TIPS ON WHAT TO LOOK FORThe team sent brief, anonymous surveys to intensive care staff in National Health Service hospitals across the U.K. with questions regarding mental health.
"Our results show a substantial burden of mental health symptoms being reported by ICU staff towards the end of the first wave in July 2020," Prof. Neil Greenberg, lead author with King’s College London, said in a university release.
The study identified nurses in particular as reporting poor mental health, compared to doctors and other ICU health care workers.
However, the researchers did report a positive finding: "We found no association between poor mental health and alcohol misuse suggesting that within this sample, self-medication with alcohol was not common," reads the study.
SERIOUSLY ILL CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS IN UK RECEIVING RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS DRUGSThe study also suggested the probable PTSD rate among ICU workers amid the early pandemic was nine times greater than the rate among the public, and double that of recent combat veterans.
"Thus, probable PTSD rate we report (40%) was around nine times that found within the general population and more than double that found in recent combat veterans."
The study had several limitations, including lacking information on respondents’ demographics, and the potential for response bias, meaning "those who participated may have had especially salient mental health difficulties they wanted to report," per the study.
UK MAY MOVE SOME CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS INTO HOTELS AS HOSPITALS STRUGGLE WITH NEW STRAINWith this, the lead author, Greenberg, urged prioritizing the mental health of ICU staff.
"Our results highlight the potential profound impact that COVID-19 has had on the mental health of frontline UK staff," Greenberg said, "and indicate an urgent need for a national strategy to protect staff mental health and decrease the risk of functional impairment of ICU staff while they carry out their essential work during COVID-19 and beyond."
According to government data, the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients in the U.K. has surged by 35% over the last week, as of Jan. 7., with another 26,900 people admitted.

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