Background: The aim of this study was to explore the impact of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) on health care workers in Taiwan. The possible predisposing and perpetuating factors in developing mental symptoms were investigated.
Methods: Participantsconsisted of 135 health care workers who had had contact with or took care of patients who were probable or suspected SARS cases, during the SARS outbreak, at a teaching hospital in southern Taiwan. All participants completed questionnaires, including the Chinese Health Questionnaire, Eysenck Personality Questionnaire and Parental Bonding Instrument.
Results: Twenty-two participants (17.3%) developed significant mental symptoms, and 105 participants (82.7%) showed no obvious symptoms. The structural equation model showed that maternal care (beta = -0.18, p = 0.011) and neuroticism (beta = 0.54, p < 10(-6)) directly influenced the ability of health care workers to deal with the impact of SARS. Maternal overprotection (beta = 0.30, p < 10(-4)) had an indirect influence on the ability to cope with the impact of SARS.
Conclusion: Both neuroticism and maternal attachment influenced the mental health of health care workers during the SARS epidemic. The results can be a helpful reference for intervention and prevention programs for health care workers facing disasters in the future.