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70 per cent of junior doctors felt depressed, anxious and stressed during Covid-19 pandemic, according to new study

The study shows how working on the frontline during the pandemic is likely to have exacerbated the mental health and stress levels of doctors.

A stethoscope and pen on a medical chart

Poor working conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic were factors in nearly half of junior doctors reporting symptoms of extremely severe depression, according to a study conducted by researchers, including Dr Kevin Teoh from Birkbeck's Department of Organisational Psychology.

Conducted when the UK experienced peak infection rates during the initial outbreak of Covid-19, between March 2020 and January 2021, the study found that 70% of respondents reported feeling severe or extremely severe levels of depression, anxiety or stress symptoms while they were helping the NHS tackle this global incident.

Further findings show that female junior doctors reported higher levels of anxiety compared to their male counterparts, something which could be attributed to factors such as a poorer work-life balance. Doctors from Asian backgrounds also reported higher levels of negative emotions than their counterparts.

The research, which surveyed 456 junior doctors, highlighted that strained workplace relationships and workloads were the most consistent source of doctors' depression, anxiety or stress. Toxic work culture was also spotlighted by the study, with examples of bullying and discrimination being another precursor for extreme negative feelings.

Dr Teoh commented: "The study shows a link between junior doctors' working conditions and their mental health. This highlights the urgent need to address and improve the working conditions of junior doctors in the NHS. Focusing on the individual interventions like resilience training and counselling simply is not enough to retain our doctors and build a healthy and sustainable workforce"

The study has been published in the journal BMJ Open.

The research was conducted in partnership with Birkbeck, University of London; University of Surrey; University College London; Keele University; University of Leeds; Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and the University of Manchester.

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