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The Impact of COVID-19 on Spanish Health Professionals: A Description of Physical and Psychological Effects

Mònica Cunill1, Maria Aymerich1, Bernat-Carles Serdà2,*, Josefina Patiño-Masó3
1 Faculty of Education and Psychology, Quality of Life Research Institute, University of Girona, Girona, 17071, Spain
2 Health and Healthcare Research Group and Girona Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBGI), Health Sciences Department, University of Girona, Girona, 17071, Spain
3 Nursing Department, Quality of Life Research Institute, University of Girona, Girona, 17071, Spain
* Corresponding Author: Bernat-Carles Serdà. Email:
(This article belongs to this Special Issue: Psychological assistance for public during the pandemic of COVID-19)

International Journal of Mental Health Promotion 2020, 22(3), 185-198.

Received 19 May 2020; Accepted 04 July 2020; Issue published 14 August 2020


Aim: To describe the physical and psychological symptoms in healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients. Methods: Cross-sectional descriptive study design. A sample of 1,452 participants was collected. Sociodemographic data were recorded. Symptoms of anxiety were screened with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7), symptoms of depression were measured with the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), and finally physical symptoms were measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-15). Percentages, means and standard deviations, the one-way and two-way ANOVA test, the Chi square test and Pearson’s correlation coefficient were all calculated. The level of significance was (p < 0.05). Results: Medium levels of anxiety (range, 5–9) and depression (range, 5–9) were observed, as well as the existence of physical symptoms (5–30). Nursing staff presented higher scores for anxiety than medical staff (Bonferroni test = −1.68; p < 0.001). Significant differences were also found for depression (F = 9.8; p < 0.001). Nursing staff and assistant nursing staff presented higher scores than medical professionals (Post hoc test = −2.11; p < 0.001 and Post hoc test = −1.53; p < 0.001, respectively). Significant differences were found according to gender in all variables referring to emotional distress: anxiety (t student = −6.492; p < 0.001), depression (t student = −4.703; p < 0.001) and physical symptoms (t student = −9.015; p < 0.001). Female healthcare workers displayed anxiety, depression and physical symptoms more frequently than their male counterparts. Analysing gender differences within each professional activity, no significant differences were found using the two-way ANOVA test (F = 1.52; p = 0.109). Anxiety and depression correlated with physical symptoms (rxy = 0.604; p < 0.001) when applying Pearson’s correlation coefficient. Conclusions: The study confirms the psychological impact and manifestation of physical symptoms in healthcare workers during the COVID-19 outbreak, highlighting the need to monitor symptoms and provide effective psychological intervention to prevent adverse effects on mental health such as post-traumatic stress disorder and burnout.


COVID-19; healthcare worker; physical symptoms; psychological symptoms; anxiety; depression; emotional distress

Cite This Article

Cunill, M., Aymerich, M., Serdà, B., Patiño-Masó, J. (2020). The Impact of COVID-19 on Spanish Health Professionals: A Description of Physical and Psychological Effects. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 22(3), 185–198.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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