High risk of burnout, depression, and low quality of life found among health care workers

The current financial crisis has heavily impacted the public sector in Europe and, to a greater extent, in countries in which the public system has higher costs. At the same time, workers from the public health sector are highly exposed to a number of job stressors, ranging from work overload, time pressures, low support and lack of role clarity. Research literature suggests that burnout, depression, and a low quality of life are common among health care workers. This affects significantly quality of care, on one side, and job satisfaction, on the other side. A team of the University of Cagliari, lead by Professor Carta and Doctor Sancassiani, have investigated the risk of depression, burnout levels and quality of life, in a sample of workers in two Italian University Hospitals.

The team found a high prevalence of symptoms of depression, as measured by self-report validated tools, among the healthcare workers, with statistically higher risk in physician and nursing staff than in administrative staff and technicians. Women and staff older than 40 years old experienced also a self-perceived poor working quality of life. Risk of burnout was linked to depression and poor working quality of life. Overall, the greater risk of depression and poor working quality of life was found among surgeons, who also experienced the highest risk of burnout.

The study results are in line with past and recent studies on the topic that were carried out in Europe. These studies have highlighted the impact of poor quality of mental health and higher risk of burnout of healthcare workers on patient's safety and quality of patient's care. In consideration of the greater risk of medical errors due to burnout, the authors concluded that dedicated interventions aimed at reducing poor mental health and low working quality of life in medical staff are indicated.

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