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2 in 3 ICU staff lived with 'mental health disorder' at pandemic peak

Image of NHS nurse in mask during COVID pandemic
Luke Jones / Unsplash

News round-up / by Conor D'Andrade

According to new research, the majority of Intensive Care (ICU) staff experienced a 'mental health disorder' when the pandemic was at its peak between November 2020 and May 2021.

56 ICUs in England responded to a survey, which aimed to assess their ability to carry out everyday tasks and mental health.

Of the 6080 staff that took part in the study, 57.5% were nurses, 27.9% were doctors and 14.5% were classed as other healthcare staff.

Worryingly, not only did the vast majority of ICU staff (69%) report that their mental health diminished their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, but 64% also met the criteria for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or alcohol dependence.

Furthermore, almost half (45%) reported similar levels of PTSD to that of Afghan veterans deployed in combat roles.

Unsurprisingly, it was found that younger and less experienced staff were more likely to have met the criteria for having these mental health disorders.

“This study shows the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff working in intensive care units," says the lead researcher of the study, Professor Kevin Fong. "The scale and severity of the symptoms reported here are impossible to ignore.”

Could statins be the answer to depression?

New research suggests that statins, a drug typically used to lower cholesterol, may be capable of improving mental health and reducing the chances of developing depression.

In a study of 2000 participants, 84% were taking no medication, 6% were on anti-hypertension medication, 4% were on statins and 5% were on both.

Participants had their mental health, medication and lifestyle factors assessed before carrying out several cognitive tests designed to measure emotional processing and memory.

Those taking statins showed significantly less negative emotional bias on these cognitive tests, suggesting that they may be less likely to develop depression.

“We found that taking a statin medication was associated with significantly lower levels of negative emotional bias when interpreting facial expressions; this was not seen with other medications, such as blood pressure medications," says lead researcher, Dr Amy Gillespie.

“We know that reducing negative emotional bias can be important for the treatment of depression, our findings are important as they provide evidence that statins may provide protection against depression.”

It’s not clear why statins have this effect, but some have suggested that it is linked to its anti-inflammatory capabilities, which may be involved in depression.

Returning to the office has impacted the mental health of 1 in 3

A survey carried out by CV Library of 3000 UK professionals has found that over one-third (36%) of employees’ mental health was negatively impacted by returning to the office.

81% of respondents also reported that their employer had reduced precautionary measures for preventing COVID over the past three months.

When reporting where they thought they were most likely to catch COVID, similar proportions of respondents said socialising (30%), shopping (28%) and in the workplace (27%).

This is unsurprising considering that the survey also found the top changes employees were noticing at work: more people in work (51%), people are more relaxed (35%), people are less cautious (30%), and sickness levels are rising (18%).

“In many ways, Freedom Day feels a lot longer than three months ago. The Ukraine war and the spiralling cost of living have taken precedent for many," says CV Library CEO, Lee Biggins. "However, there has been a big period of adjustment for UK workers and it’s reassuring to know that the majority now feel safe in their place of work.

“Whilst the Prime Minister feels that working from home ‘doesn’t work,’ these results prove that the benefits are significant for many, particularly when it comes to positive mental health.

"In all of CV Library’s recent survey results the message is consistent and clear, and UK professionals appear in no hurry to return to pre-pandemic working patterns.”


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