Mental health risks differentially associated with immunocompromised status among healthcare workers and family members at the pandemic outset

Brain Behav Immun Health. 2021 Jun 13:15:100285. doi: 10.1016/j.bbih.2021.100285. eCollection 2021 Aug.


The mental health of healthcare workers (HCWs) is critical to their long-term well-being and future disaster preparedness. Goal 1 of this study was to identify rates of mental health problems experienced by HCWs. Goal 2 was to test a model of risk stemming from pandemic-related stressors and vulnerability factors. This cross-sectional study included HCWs (N ​= ​2,246 [1,573 clinical providers; 673 non-clinical staff]) in the Rocky Mountain West who voluntarily completed an online survey in April/May 2020. Respondents completed measures for traumatic stress symptoms, depression, anxiety, alcohol use, and sleep. Logistic regressions stratified by professional role (clinical versus non-clinical) were specified to predict clinical screening cutoff (positive/negative) as a function of five pandemic-related stressors (immunocompromised self; immunocompromised household member; care provision to infected patients; clinical management role; positive cases). Results showed that more than half of HCWs surveyed (52.5%) screened positive (above cutoff) for traumatic stress, depression, or anxiety, with ~20% reporting problematic alcohol use, and variable insufficient sleep from ~10% off shift to ~50% on shift. Clinical employees with an immunocompromised household member had increased odds of screening positive for a mental health problem. Non-clinical HCWs who were immunocompromised were at elevated risk for screening positive a mental health problem. Being female, minority status, and younger increased odds for mental health problems. Implications include alleviating a portion of the mental health burden of HCWs involved in response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic by considering policies to protect immunocompromised HCWs and their families (e.g., vaccine priorities, telework options).

Keywords: Family members; Healthcare workers; Occupational stress; Pandemic; Traumatic stress; immunocompromised.