Israeli study finds significant COVID-19 emotional impact on health care workers

Findings underline importance of mental health support for medical professionals dealing with the pandemic.


Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers have discovered patterns of significantly decreased joy, increased sadness, fear, and disgust among health care professionals (HCP) in the largest social media study to track emotional changes and discourse during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In the study, a multidisciplinary BGU team analyzed more than 53,000 HCP tweets from followers of several hundred Twitter accounts of healthcare organizations and discerned common HCP points of interest.

The most significant topics HCPs discussed during the pandemic were COVID-19 information, public health and social values, medical studies as well as daily life and food. Approximately 44 percent of their discourse was about professional topics during the entire 2020 year.

The groundbreaking research implemented data-driven approaches for analyzing social media networks and showed they are helpful as a method for exploring professional health insights during both routine clinical situations and emergencies.

“Our findings, which track increasing sadness and decreasing joy, should be a warning to health organizations of the importance of better mental health support to help HCPs cope with the emotional consequences of the pandemic,” said Dr. Rami Puzis, of BGU’s Software and Information System Engineering Department (SISE), and Dr. Odeya Cohen, of the Department of Nursing.

“Most interestingly, HCP tweets expressed greater levels of fear just prior to pandemic waves in 2020. This indicates that many HCPs, beyond those working in epidemiology, observed, and were adequately qualified to anticipate pandemic development,” they added.

Puzis noted that “This suggests that decision-makers could benefit from investing additional resources into listening to the broader HCP community to track and anticipate bottom-up pathways for developing health crises.”