Psychological Health Among Gastroenterologists During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Female physician looks stressed in front of a computer.
The study authors aimed to estimate the prevalence and critical determinants of psychological distress among gastroenterologists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Efforts are needed to ensure that gastroenterologists maintain a high degree of psychological health to remain effective in providing optimal patient care during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the findings from a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to gastroenterologists eager to maintain clinical practice, patients’ health, and their own physical and mental well-being. Researchers in the United States aimed to estimate the prevalence and determinants of psychological distress in gastroenterologists during the COVID-19 pandemic by conducting a national cross-sectional survey between May and June 2020.

The primary study outcomes included psychological distress (Patient Health Questionnaire-8 [PHQ-8], General Anxiety Disorder-7 [GAD-7]) and insomnia (Insomnia Severity Index-7 [ISI-7]). A total of 153 gastroenterologists from 32 US states completed the questionnaire. Depression (8.5%) and anxiety (7.2%) were uncommon; however, 25.5% of respondents met clinical cut-off scores for insomnia.

Although 85.0% reported moderate to high well-being, among the 15.0% of responders reporting low well-being, the Physician Well-Being Index instrument strongly predicted clinical depression, anxiety, and insomnia in univariate analyses (P <.001 for all outcomes). No personal or practice-related factors and no perceived COVID-19-related exposure risks reliably predicted clinical depression, but a perceived lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) was associated with clinical anxiety (P =.047).

In addition, age older than 60 years (P=.046), years in practice (P =.035), and isolation outside of the home were associated with clinical insomnia (P =.026). Low resilient coping skills were reported among 30.7% of gastroenterologists, and clinical insomnia was significantly associated with low resilient coping.

The authors concluded, “Physician leaders and other administrators should consider strategies to maintain resilient coping skills among their colleagues such as dedicated resilience training and selfcare, noting that low resilient coping skills are prevalent.”

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Shah ED, Pourmorteza M, Elmunzer BJ, et al; on behalf of the North American Alliance for the Study of Digestive Manifestations of COVID-19. Psychological health among gastroenterologists during the COVID-19 pandemic: a national survey. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. Published online December 2, 2020. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2020.11.043