Mental health and wellbeing of health and aged care workers in Australia, May 2021 - June 2022: a longitudinal cohort study

Med J Aust. 2023 May 1;218(8):361-367. doi: 10.5694/mja2.51918. Epub 2023 Apr 9.


Objectives: To assess the mental health and wellbeing of health and aged care workers in Australia during the second and third years of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, overall and by occupation group.

Design, setting, participants: Longitudinal cohort study of health and aged care workers (ambulance, hospitals, primary care, residential aged care) in Victoria: May-July 2021 (survey 1), October-December 2021 (survey 2), and May-June 2022 (survey 3).

Main outcome measures: Proportions of respondents (adjusted for age, gender, socio-economic status) reporting moderate to severe symptoms of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9, PHQ-9), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale, GAD-7), or post-traumatic stress (Impact of Event Scale-6, IES-6), burnout (abbreviated Maslach Burnout Inventory, aMBI), or high optimism (10-point visual analogue scale); mean scores (adjusted for age, gender, socio-economic status) for wellbeing (Personal Wellbeing Index-Adult, PWI-A) and resilience (Connor Davidson Resilience Scale 2, CD-RISC-2).

Results: A total of 1667 people responded to at least one survey (survey 1, 989; survey 2, 1153; survey 3, 993; response rate, 3.3%). Overall, 1211 survey responses were from women (72.6%); most respondents were hospital workers (1289, 77.3%) or ambulance staff (315, 18.9%). The adjusted proportions of respondents who reported moderate to severe symptoms of depression (survey 1, 16.4%; survey 2, 22.6%; survey 3, 19.2%), anxiety (survey 1, 8.8%; survey 2, 16.0%; survey 3, 11.0%), or post-traumatic stress (survey 1, 14.6%; survey 2, 35.1%; survey 3, 14.9%) were each largest for survey 2. The adjusted proportions of participants who reported moderate to severe symptoms of burnout were higher in surveys 2 and 3 than in survey 1, and the proportions who reported high optimism were smaller in surveys 2 and 3 than in survey 1. Adjusted mean scores for wellbeing and resilience were similar at surveys 2 and 3 and lower than at survey 1. The magnitude but not the patterns of change differed by occupation group.

Conclusion: Burnout was more frequently reported and mean wellbeing and resilience scores were lower in mid-2022 than in mid-2021 for Victorian health and aged care workers who participated in our study. Evidence-based mental health and wellbeing programs for workers in health care organisations are needed.

Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12621000533897 (observational study; retrospective).

Keywords: COVID-19; Epidemics; Health services; Longitudinal studies; Mental disorders; Mental health policy; Mental health services; Occupational health; Public health.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety
  • Burnout, Professional* / psychology
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Health
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Victoria / epidemiology