The current COVID-19 pandemic has been officially linked to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe in just a few months. It is particularly lethal for the elderly in general, as well as for populations residing in long-term stay facilities. By this time, those working and caring for high-risk populations have been exposed to very intense and sudden levels of physical and psychological strain. The situation has taken a particularly tragic turn in residential nursing and care homes (NCH), which were hit hard by the pandemic. In residential NCH, neither residents nor workers tend to have immediate access to the same expertise, medication and equipment as in hospitals, which exacerbates an already tense situation. Among the mental health conditions related to exposure to potentially traumatic events, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety are the most prevalent and scientifically recognized. In this survey-based epidemiological study, we test the prevalence of anxiety and post-traumatic symptomatology in residential nursing and care home workers—a group of individuals that has been largely neglected but who nonetheless plays a very important and sensitive role in our society. We do this by focusing on the North of Italy, the most affected region during the first COVID-19 outbreak in Italy. Using a single-stage cluster design, our study returns an estimate for the prevalence of moderate-to-severe anxiety and/or post-traumatic symptomatology of 43% (s.e. = 3.09; 95% CI [37–49]), with an 18% (s.e. = 1.83; 95% CI [14–22]) prevalence of comorbidity among workers of Northern Italian NCH between 15 June and 25 July 2020 (i.e. 12–52 days after the end of national lockdown). Women and workers who had recently been in contact with COVID-19-positive patients/colleagues are more likely to report moderate-to-severe symptoms, with odds ratios of 2.2 and 1.7, respectively.


Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

Cite as

Riello, M., Purgato, M., Bove, C., Mactaggart, D. & Rusconi, E. 2020, 'Prevalence of post-traumatic symptomatology and anxiety among residential nursing and care home workers following the first COVID-19 outbreak in Northern Italy', Royal Society Open Science, 7, article no: 200880. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.200880

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 17 June 2022
Was this page helpful?