Hospital workers mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: methods of data collection and characteristics of study sample in a university hospital in Milan (Italy)

A. Fattori, F. Cantù, A. Comotti, V. Tombola, E. Colombo, C. Nava, L. Bordini, L. Riboldi, M. Bonzini, P. Brambilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic is currently a severe challenge for healthcare workers, with a considerable impact on their mental health. In order to focus preventive and rehabilitation measures it’s fundamental to identify risk factors of such psychological impairment. We designed an observational longitudinal study to systematically examine the psychological wellbeing of all employees in a large University Hospital in Italy, using validated psychometric scales in the context of the occupational physician’s health surveillance, in collaboration with Psychiatric Unit. Methods: The study started after ethical approval in August 2020. For each worker, the psychological wellbeing is screened in two steps. The first level questionnaire collects sociodemographic characteristics, personal and occupational COVID-19 exposure, worries and concerns about COVID-19, general psychological discomfort (GHQ-12), post-traumatic stress symptoms (IES-R) and anxiety (GAD-7). Workers who score above the cut-off in at least one scale are further investigated by the second level questionnaire composed by PHQ-9, DES-II and SCL-90. If second level shows psychological impairments, we offer individual specialist treatment (third level). We plan to follow-up all subjects to monitor symptoms and possible chronicization; we aim to investigate potential risk factors through univariate analysis and multivariate logistic regressions. Results: Preliminary results refer to a sample of 550 workers who completed the multi-step evaluation from August to December 2020, before vaccination campaign started. The participation rate was 90%. At first level screening, 39% of the subjects expressed general psychological discomfort (GHQ-12), 22% post-traumatic stress symptoms (IES-R), and 21% symptoms of anxiety (GAD-7). Women, nurses, younger workers, subjects with COVID-19 working exposure and with an infected family member showed significantly higher psychological impairment compared to colleagues. After the second level screening, 12% and 7% of all workers showed, respectively, depressive and dissociative symptoms; scorings were significantly associated with gender and occupational role. We are currently extending sample size and evaluating subjects over a period of further 12 months. Conclusions: The possibility to perform a systematic follow-up of psychological wellbeing of all hospital workers, directly or indirectly exposed to pandemic consequences, constitutes a unique condition to detect individual, occupational, and non-occupational risk factors for psychological impairment in situations of prolonged stress, as well as variables associated with symptoms chronicization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number163
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • COVID-19 psychological impact
  • COVID-19 research methods
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Occupational stress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Risk assessment
  • Workers’ health surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Informatics


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