Covid-19 pandemic impact on mental health: a web-based cross-sectional survey on a sample of Italian general practitioners

Acta Biomed. 2020 May 11;91(2):83-88. doi: 10.23750/abm.v91i2.9619.


Background: Since the World Health Organization declared the new 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak first a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and then a pandemic, Italy held more than 195.350 cases and 26.380 deaths. Working in the frontline with suspected Covid-19 infection patients, general practitioners (GPs) are daily under both physical and psychological pressure. Methods: A web-based cross-sectional survey was carried out on italian GPs working in Genoa (Italy), to assess the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on mental health. The survey was anonymous and a free Google Forms® software was used.

Results: One hundred thirty-one GPs completed the survey. Compared to GPs with absent or mild depressive symptoms (PHQ-9 < 10), GPs reporting moderate to severe depressive symptoms (N=30, 22.9%; PHQ-9 ≥ 10) reported more helplessness (96.7% vs. 79.2%, p=.025), spent more than three hours searching for COVID-19 information (43.3% vs. 19.8%, p=.024), perceived less adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) (6.7% vs. 23.8%, p=.049) and visited more COVID-19 infected patients (16.63 ± 27.30 vs. 9.52 ± 11.75, p=.041). Moreover, PHQ-9 ≥ 10 GPs reported a significant higher severity for both anxiety and insomnia (13.43 ± 4.96 vs. 4.88 ± 3.53 and 11.60 ± 5.53 vs. 4.84 ± 3.81, respectively; p<.001), and a worse quality of life in both mental (34.60 ± 7.45 vs. 46.01 ± 7.83, p<.001) and physical (43.50 ± 9.37 vs. 52.94 ± 4.78, p<.001) component summary.

Conclusions: Our results give early insight into the urgent need to provide continuity of care for patients at the community-level, adequate PPE to GPs and a clear guidance from public health institutions. A precarious healthcare system both at a national and regional level might have triggered negative mental health outcomes in Italian GPs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / epidemiology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Surveys and Questionnaires