Background: Health care workers (HCWs) presented frequent concerns regarding their health and their families' health and high levels of psychological distress during previous disease outbreaks, such as the SARS outbreak, which was associated with social isolation and intentional absenteeism. We aimed to assess HCWs concerns and anxiety, perceived sufficiency of information, and intended behavior during the recent A/H1N1 influenza pandemic and their associations with psychological distress.
Method: Between September 1st and 30th, 2009, 469 health-care workers (HCWs) of a tertiary teaching hospital completed a 20-item questionnaire regarding concerns and worries about the new A/H1N1 influenza pandemic, along with Cassileth's Information Styles Questionnaire (part-I) and the GHQ-28.
Results: More than half of the present study's HCWs (56.7%) reported they were worried about the A/H1N1 influenza pandemic, their degree of anxiety being moderately high (median 6/9). The most frequent concern was infection of family and friends and the health consequences of the disease (54.9%). The perceived risk of being infected was considered moderately high (median 6/9). Few HCWs (6.6%) had restricted their social contacts and fewer (3.8%) felt isolated by their family members and friends because of their hospital work, while a low percentage (4.3%) indented to take a leave to avoid infection. However, worry and degree of worry were significantly associated with intended absenteeism (p < 0.0005), restriction of social contacts (p < 0.0005), and psychological distress (p = 0.036). Perceived sufficiency of information about several aspects of the A/H1N1 influenza was moderately high, and the overall information about the A/H1N1 influenza was considered clear (median 7.4/9). Also, perceived sufficiency of information for the prognosis of the infection was significantly independently associated with the degree of worry about the pandemic (p = 0.008).
Conclusions: A significant proportion of HCWs experienced moderately high anxiety about the pandemic, and their degree of worry was an independent correlate of psychological distress. Since perceived sufficiency of information about the A/H1N1 influenza prognosis was associated with reduced degree of worry, hospital managers and consultation-liaison psychiatry services should try to provide for HCWs' need for information, in order to offer favourable working conditions in times of extreme distress, such as the current and future pandemics.