Psychological Distress and Anxiety Levels Among Health Care Workers at the Height of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United Arab Emirates

Basema Saddik, Iffat Elbarazi, Mohamad Hani Temsah, Fatemeh Saheb Sharif-Askari, Waad Kheder, Amal Hussein, Hellme Najim, Riyad Bendardaf, Qutayba Hamid, Rabih Halwani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Providing medical care during a global pandemic exposes healthcare workers (HCW) to a high level of risk, causing anxiety and stress. This study aimed to assess the prevalence of anxiety and psychological distress among HCWs during COVID-19. Methods: We invited HCWs from 3 hospitals across the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to participate in an anonymous online survey between April 19–May 3, 2020. The GAD-7 and K10 measures were used to assess anxiety and psychological distress. Logistic regression models assessed associations between knowledge, attitude, worry, and levels of anxiety and psychological distress. Results: A total of 481 HCWs participated in this study. The majority of HCWs were female (73.6%) and aged 25–34 years (52.6%). More than half were nurses (55.7%) and had good knowledge of COVID-19 (86.3%). Over a third (37%) of HCWs reported moderate/severe psychological distress in the K10 measure and moderate/severe anxiety (32.3%) in the GAD-7, with frontline workers significantly reporting higher levels of anxiety (36%). Knowledge of COVID-19 did not predict anxiety and psychological distress, however, HCWs who believed COVID-19 was difficult to treat and those who perceived they were at high risk of infection had worse mental health outcomes. Worry about spreading COVID-19 to family, being isolated, contracting COVID-19 and feeling stigmatized had 1.8- to 2.5-fold increased odds of symptoms of mental health problems. Additionally, HCWs who felt the need for psychological support through their workplace showed increased odds of psychological distress. Conclusion: HCWs in the UAE reported a high prevalence of psychological distress and anxiety while responding to the challenges of COVID-19. The findings from this study emphasize the public, emotional and mental health burden of COVID-19 and highlight the importance for health systems to implement, monitor, and update preventive policies to protect HCWs from contracting the virus while also providing psychological support in the workplace.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1604369
JournalInternational Journal of Public Health
Publication statusPublished - Nov 11 2021


  • anxiety disorders
  • COVID-19
  • healthcare workers
  • mental health
  • psychological distress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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