Stress Disorders More Prevalent among Doctors due to the Pandemic
Psychologists from HSE University have joined their peers from Ekaterinburg to look into the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Russian doctors. They found that medical staff are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression more often than before. The results of the study were published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The number of mental disorders has grown considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic. People are suffering more from depression, anxiety, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Medics turned out to be the most vulnerable cohort from this perspective. They are at a higher risk of being infected with COVID, since they have contact with a lot of patients, work longer hours, and see more human suffering because of their profession. Over the last two years, scholars in different countries (USA, Italy, Great Britain, China, India, etc) have carried out research to see whether the pandemic has impacted medics’ mental health. They found, for example, that in Great Britain, 58% experience PTSD, anxiety, or depression, while in the U.S. and Australia, between 30% and 50% of medics suffer from these disorders.
To understand the situation in Russia, a team of researchers from HSE University, Ural Division of RAS Institute of Immunology and Physiology, and Ural Federal University launched a pilot project among dentists. They choose this field, as dentists face a high risk of being infected with COVID at work since they are in direct contact with patients’ saliva, and dental procedures generate aerosols—airborne liquid particles that carry viruses and bacteria.
The study involved 128 doctors and dentistry employees from Ekaterinburg. The participants were asked to fill out a few questionnaires, in which they answered how often they had experienced certain anxiety conditions over the past few weeks, such as insomnia, bad memories, depression, and anxiety. To evaluate stress levels, they used the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21), one of the most popular tools to diagnose mental distress today. They used two scales to evaluate PTSD symptoms: Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) and PTSD Symptom Scale-Self-Report (PSS-SR). They complement each other and provide a more complete understanding of the individual’s mental state.
Alena Zolotareva, one of the study authors, Senior Research Fellow at the HSE International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation
‘Of course, we cannot give a diagnosis based on a self-report scale only. But the participants’ responses provide a rather realistic image of medics’ mental health and assess the levels of mental distress.’
The results of the survey among Russian doctors turned out to be comparable with the results of similar studies in other countries. Almost 22% of dentistry employees experience moderate or severe symptoms of mental distress. On the DASS-21 scale, 20% of respondents show symptoms of depression, while 24% experience anxiety and stress. PTSD symptoms of various severity are experienced by 29.7% respondents on the PSS-SR scale and 7.1% on IES-R. The employees who contact patients directly demonstrate stronger PTSD symptoms than those who do not see patients in person (such as prosthetists). This can be explained by the fact that employees suffer from permanent fear of becoming infected during direct contact.
The results of the Russian study, however, had their own peculiarities. For example, respondents aged 51 to 64 are to have experienced the highest levels of depression, anxiety, stress, and PTSD. In other countries (such as India and Italy), the levels of mental distress were inversely related to age. This may be explained by the fact that in Russia, this age group is the most vulnerable in terms of financial well-being. At the same time, people over 64 did not participate in the survey due to limitations during the pandemic.
‘The pilot study helped us see that medics are a vulnerable cohort who often suffer from mental distress. And while the sample was small—we talked only to dentists from Ekaterinburg—the data is comparable with the results of similar international studies,’ said Alena Zolotareva. ‘For us this means that we should continue working on the project and implement a larger scale study with more medics from different regions. In the future, this will help develop effective mental support tools for medics.’
The paper’s authors say that as of today, traditional psychological practices, such as relaxation techniques, keeping a diary of anxiety thoughts and feelings, and asking friends and family for help can help to cope with stress. In addition, stress levels decrease as the pandemic goes on, people get more information about the virus, and effective vaccines appear. A recent study by researchers from the USA and China showed that despite higher levels of stress, indicators of happiness among medics are also higher, and remain high after the stress decreases. This means that the profession itself may probably be a powerful resource for overcoming mental unwellness.
HSE Psychologists Propose New Approach to Building Soft Skills
Researchers at HSE's School of Psychology have used the findings of studies into creativity and multilingualism to develop 'Plurilingual Intercultural Creative Keys’ (PICK), a new programme which integrates both aspects into the teaching and learning process. The study results have been published in Psychology. Journal of the Higher School of Economics.
Card File: Plurilingual Creativity
Fluency in foreign languages has multiple advantages in terms of cognitive abilities, communication skills, cultural awareness, and career advancement. But can bilingualism and plurilingualism (knowledge of multiple languages and related cultural contexts) contribute to creative thinking and one's ability to generate new ideas? Studies have shown that linguistic, intercultural and creative competencies are interrelated, and their synergy can give rise to plurilingual creativity. The following overview is based on several papers by Anatoly Kharkhurin, Director of the HSE Laboratory for Linguistic, Intercultural and Creative Competencies.
Readers Found to Rely on Word Spelling Rather Than Sound in Reading
Skilled readers are known to extract information not only from the word they are looking at but from the one directly following it. This phenomenon is called pre-processing. Researchers from the HSE Centre for Language and Brain analysed the eye movements of primary school children and adults during silent reading and found both groups to rely on orthographic, rather than phonological, information in pre-processing an upcoming word. The study has been published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Psychological Intervention Reduced Stress during COVID Lockdown
Resilience and well-being in difficult times can be developed via online interventions in the workplace. An international team of researchers from France, the UK, and Russia (with the participation of researchers from the HSE International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation) studied the effectiveness of SPARK Resilience, a programme for developing resilience, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of the study were published in the PLOS One journal.
Light Breezes Improve Moods of Social Media Users
Sergey Smetanin, Research Fellow of the HSE Graduate School of Business, conducted a large-scale analysis to examine the impact of weather conditions on the sentiments expressed by users of the Odnoklassniki (OK) social network. The findings have been published in PeerJ Computer Science. This is the first study of its kind in Russia.
HSE Psychologists Examine Baby Duck Syndrome in Digital Interface Users
Researchers of the HSE Laboratory for Cognitive Psychology of Digital Interfaces Nadezhda Glebko and Elena Gorbunova have examined the so-called ‘Baby Duck Syndrome’—the tendency among digital product users to prefer the the old version of an interface over a new one. The authors compare this phenomenon to similar cognitive biases such as the mere-exposure effect, the endowment effect, and the status quo bias. Their findings are published in Psikhologicheskie Issledovaniya [Psychological Studies].
'We Wanted to Create an Opportunity for Intercampus Teams to Engage in Promising Studies'
HSE University has announced the winners of the Project Competition in Basic Science Research for Intercampus Departments. The competition, which the university is organising for the first time, will provide funding to 10 research teams working on five topics. Four of the winning projects will be implemented by new research departments formed as a result of the competition.
Meta-analysis Links Benevolent Sexism to Violence against Women
HSE researchers Elena Agadullina, Andrey Lovakov, Maryana Balezina and Olga Gulevich examined the potential links between different types of sexism – hostile and benevolent – and the likelihood of supporting or practicing violence against women. The authors conducted a meta-analysis of academic literature to find out how sexist attitudes can contribute to violence.
Study Explains Blood Donation Motivations
An international team of researchers from the HSE International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation, the Russian National Research Centre for Hematology, and a number of American universities examined the motivations of regular blood donors.
Senior Scholars’ High Achievements Rely on Strong Personality and Favourable Environment
According to researchers of the Moscow City Pedagogical University (MSPU) and HSE University Vladimir Postavnev, Irina Postavneva, Vadim Peskov and Alexey Dvoinin, certain personality traits can help older scholars stay productive and creative for a long time. The study findings are published in Acta Biomedica Scientifica.