Subjective burden and perspectives of German healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2021 Mar;271(2):271-281. doi: 10.1007/s00406-020-01183-2. Epub 2020 Aug 19.


Healthcare workers (HCW) face tremendous challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Little is known about the subjective burden, views, and COVID-19 infection status of HCWs. The aim of this work was to evaluate the subjective burden, the perception of the information policies, and the agreement on structural measures in a large cohort of German HCW during the COVID-19 pandemic. This country-wide anonymous online survey was carried out from April 15th until May 1st, 2020. 25 content-related questions regarding the subjective burden and other dimensions were evaluated. We evaluated different dimensions of subjective burden, stress, and perspectives using 5-point Likert-scale questions. Moreover, the individual COVID-19 infection status, the amount of people infected in circle of friends and acquaintances and the hours working overtime were assessed. A total of 3669 HCWs provided sufficient responses for analyses. 2.8% of HCWs reported to have been tested positive for COVID-19. Nurses reported in principle higher ratings on all questions of subjective burden and stress than doctors and other hospital staff. Doctors (3.6%) and nurses (3.1%) were more likely to be tested positive for COVID-19 than other hospital staff (0.6%, Chi (2) 2 = 17.39, p < 0.0005). HCWs who worked in a COVID-19 environment reported higher levels of subjective burden and stress compared to all other participants. Working in a COVID-19 environment increased the likelihood to be tested positive for COVID-19 (4.8% vs. 2.3%, Chi (1) 2 = 12.62, p < 0.0005) and the severity of the subjective burden. During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses experience more stress than doctors. Overall, German HCWs showed high scores of agreement with the measures taken by the hospitals.

Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19; Depression; Pandemic; Personal burden; Stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • COVID-19 / psychology*
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Critical Care / psychology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Friends
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses
  • Pandemics*
  • Personnel, Hospital / psychology
  • Physicians
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Young Adult