Perceived risk and distress related to COVID-19 in healthcare versus non-healthcare workers of Pakistan: a cross-sectional study

Adeel Abid, Hania Shahzad, Hyder Ali Khan, Suneel Piryani, Areeba Raza Khan, Fauziah Rabbani

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Healthcare workers (HCWs) have found themselves and their families more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. This puts them at a higher risk of psychological distress, which may compromise patient care. In this study, we aim to explore the risk perceptions and psychological distress between HCWs and non-healthcare workers (NHCWs) in Pakistan. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted using an online self-administered questionnaire. Psychological distress was assessed through The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Comparisons were made between HCWs (front/backend, students/graduates) and NHCWs related to risk perceptions and stress levels related to COVID-19. Following tests for normality (Shapiro–Wilk test), variables that fulfilled the normality assumption were compared using the independent samples t-test, while for other variables Mann–Whitney U-test was employed. Pearson Chi-square test was used to compare categorical data. Multiple logistic regression techniques examined the association of participant age, gender, household income, and the presence of COVID-19 symptoms with depression and anxiety levels. Results: Data from 1406 respondents (507 HCWs and 899 NHCWs) were analyzed. No significant difference was observed between HCWs and NHCWs’ perception of susceptibility and severity towards COVID-19. While healthcare graduates perceived themselves (80% graduates vs 66% students, p-value 0.011) and their family (82% graduates vs 67% students, p-value 0.008) to be more susceptible to COVID-19, they were less likely to experience depression than students. Frontline HCWs involved in direct patient care perceived themselves (83% frontline vs. 70% backend, p-value 0.003) and their family (84% frontline vs. 72% backend, p-value 0.006) as more susceptible to COVID-19 than backend healthcare professionals. Over half of the respondents were anxious (54% HCWs and 55% NHCWs). Female gender, younger age, lower income, and having COVID-19 related symptoms had a significant effect on the anxiety levels of both HCWs and NHCWs. Conclusion: Frontline HCWs, young people, women, and individuals with lower income were at a higher risk of psychological distress due to the pandemic. Government policies should thus be directed at ensuring the mental well-being of frontline HCWs and improving their satisfaction to strengthen the health care delivery system. The findings suggest the need to provide mental health support for health workers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
JournalHuman Resources for Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Anxiety
  • COVID-19
  • Depression
  • Healthcare workers
  • Psychological distress
  • Risk perception


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