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Development of health care workers' mental health during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in Switzerland: two cross-sectional studies.

  • Spiller, Tobias R1, 2
  • Méan, Marie3
  • Ernst, Jutta4
  • Sazpinar, Onur5
  • Gehrke, Samuel2
  • Paolercio, Francesca6
  • Petry, Heidi4
  • Pfaltz, Monique C1, 2
  • Morina, Naser1, 2
  • Aebischer, Oriane7
  • Gachoud, David3, 7
  • von Känel, Roland1, 2
  • Weilenmann, Sonja2, 6
  • 1 Department of Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. , (Switzerland)
  • 2 University of Zurich and Department of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. , (Switzerland)
  • 3 Department of Internal Medicine, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland. , (Switzerland)
  • 4 Center for Clinical Nursing Science, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. , (Switzerland)
  • 5 Department of Internal Medicine, Spital Zollikerberg, Zollikon, Switzerland. , (Switzerland)
  • 6 Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. , (Switzerland)
  • 7 Educational Unit, School of Medicine, Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland. , (Switzerland)
Published Article
Psychological Medicine
Cambridge University Press
Publication Date
Aug 13, 2020
DOI: 10.1017/S0033291720003128
PMID: 32787976


Virus outbreaks such as the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic are challenging for health care workers (HCWs), affecting their workload and their mental health. Since both, workload and HCW's well-being are related to the quality of care, continuous monitoring of working hours and indicators of mental health in HCWs is of relevance during the current pandemic. The existing investigations, however, have been limited to a single study period. We examined changes in working hours and mental health in Swiss HCWs at the height of the pandemic (T1) and again after its flattening (T2). We conducted two cross-sectional online studies among Swiss HCWs assessing working hours, depression, anxiety, and burnout. From each study, 812 demographics-matched participants were included into the analysis. Working hours and mental health were compared between the two samples. Compared to prior to the pandemic, the share of participants working less hours was the same in both samples, whereas the share of those working more hours was lower in the T2 sample. The level of depression did not differ between the samples. In the T2 sample, participants reported more anxiety, however, this difference was below the minimal clinically important difference. Levels of burnout were slightly higher in the T2 sample. Two weeks after the health care system started to transition back to normal operations, HCWs' working hours still differed from their regular hours in non-pandemic times. Overall anxiety and depression among HCWs did not change substantially over the course of the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

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