Examining the prevalence and health impairment associated with subthreshold PTSD symptoms (PTSS) among frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Bryce Hruska, P. Daniel Patterson, Ankur A. Doshi, Maria Koenig Guyette, Ambrose H. Wong, Bernard P. Chang, Brian P. Suffoletto, Maria L. Pacella-LaBarbara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased healthcare workers' (HCWs) risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although subthreshold PTSD symptoms (PTSS) are common and increase vulnerability for health impairments, they have received little attention. We examined the prevalence of subthreshold PTSS and their relationship to physical health symptoms and sleep problems among HCWs during the pandemic's second wave (01/21–02/21). Participants (N = 852; 63.1% male; Mage = 38.34) completed the Short-Form PTSD Checklist (SF-PCL), the Cohen-Hoberman Inventory of Physical Symptoms, and the PROMIS Sleep-Related Impairment-Short-Form 4a. We created three groups with the SF-PCL: scores ≥11 = probable PTSD (5.5%); scores between 1 and 10 = subthreshold PTSS (55.3%); scores of 0 = no PTSS (39.2%). After controlling for demographics, occupational characteristics, and COVID-19 status, HCWs with subthreshold PTSS experienced greater physical health symptoms and sleep problems than HCWs with no PTSS. While HCWs with PTSD reported the greatest health impairment, HCWs with subthreshold PTSS reported 88% more physical health symptoms and 36% more sleep problems than HCWs with no PTSS. Subthreshold PTSS are common and increase risk for health impairment. Interventions addressing HCWs' mental health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic must include subthreshold PTSS to ensure their effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-208
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Volume158
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Keywords

  • Partial PTSD
  • Physical health
  • Sleep problems
  • Subclinical PTSD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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