The COVID-related mental health load of neonatal healthcare professionals: a multicentre study in Italy.


Background. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected healthcare professionals’ lives. We investigated the potential mental health risk faced by healthcare professionals working in neonatal units in a multicentre cross-sectional observational study. Methods. We included all healthcare personnel of 7 level-3 and 6 level-2 neonatal units in Tuscany, Italy. We measured the level of physical exposure to COVID-19 risk, self-reported COVID-related stress, and mental health load outcomes (anxiety, depression, burnout, psychosomatic, and post-traumatic symptoms) via validated, self-administered, online questionnaires. Results. We analysed 314 complete answers. Scores above the clinical cutoff were reported by 91% of participants for anxious symptoms, 29% for post-traumatic symptoms, 13% for burnout, and 3% for depressive symptoms. Moreover, 50% of the participants reported at least one psychosomatic symptom. COVID-related stress (but not actual physical exposure) was significantly associated with all the measured mental health load outcomes, with a Risk Ratio of 3.33 (95% Confidence interval: 1.89, 5.85) for clinically relevant anxiety, 2.39 (1.69, 3.38) for post-traumatic symptoms, 1.79 (1.16, 2.75) for emotional exhaustion, and 2.51 (0.98, 6.44) for depression. Conclusions. Despite the low clinical impact of COVID-19 in neonatology, neonatal professionals are a specific population at risk for psychological consequences during the pandemic.