A new study out of Toronto’s institute for Work and Health found that people working under inadequate Covid-19 safety measures may have increased rates of mental health issues. The study, conducted with Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, surveyed approximately 9,000 people, about 6,000 of which worked in health care settings, and of which 3,500 worked in non-healthcare settings.
Workers were presented with questions about “the perceived need and adequacy of eight types of PPE and 10 different infection control practices on the job,” according to a report by Safety+Health. It included such personal protective equipment as gloves, masks, eye protection, face shields, respirators, air purifying equipment, gowns, and hand sanitizer. As for infection control measures, these included “screening incoming patients, having asymptomatic patients wear masks, restricted access and controlled flow of COVID-19 patients in a facility, ventilation, and cleaning/disinfection practices,” according to Safety+Health.
The survey evaluated workers’ responses according to mental health screening tools, ultimately finding that 55% of respondents “screened positive” for symptoms of anxiety, and 42% for symptoms of depression. According to the report, less than one-fifth of the survey’s approximately 9,000 respondents attested that they “had all their PPE or infection control needs met” in their workplaces. Even of those who did report having those needs fully met 43% screened positive for anxiety symptoms; 60% of workers who reported having needs unmet screened positive for anxiety symptoms.
The researchers behind the study said in a press release that workplaces can improve their employees’ mental health by enhancing their infection control “Notably, people who felt fully protected at their worksites had similar or even slightly better mental health compared to people who worked from home… Likewise, people who felt entirely unprotected at work had even poorer mental health than people who had lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic.”
You can read the study itself via the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.