Background: Health and social care workers (HSCWs) are at risk of experiencing adverse mental health outcomes (e.g. higher levels of anxiety and depression) because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This can have a detrimental effect on quality of care, the national response to the pandemic and its aftermath.

Aims: A longitudinal design provided follow-up evidence on the mental health (changes in prevalence of disease over time) of NHS staff working at a remote health board in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic, and investigated the determinants of mental health outcomes over time.

Method: A two-wave longitudinal study was conducted from July to September 2020. Participants self-reported levels of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), anxiety (Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7) and mental well-being (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale) at baseline and 1.5 months later.

Results: The analytic sample of 169 participants, working in community (43%) and hospital (44%) settings, reported substantial levels of depression and anxiety, and low mental well-being at baseline (depression, 30.8%; anxiety, 20.1%; well-being, 31.9%). Although mental health remained mostly constant over time, the proportion of participants meeting the threshold for anxiety increased to 27.2% at follow-up. Multivariable modelling indicated that working with, and disruption because of, COVID-19 were associated with adverse mental health changes over time.

Conclusions: HSCWs working in a remote area with low COVID-19 prevalence reported substantial levels of anxiety and depression, similar to those working in areas with high COVID-19 prevalence. Efforts to support HSCW mental health must remain a priority, and should minimise the adverse effects of working with, and disruption caused by, the COVID-19 pandemic.


This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Cite as

De Kock, J., Lantham, H., Cowden, R., Cullen, B., Narzisi, K., Jerdan, S., Muñoz, S., Leslie, S., McNamara, N., Boggon, A. & Humphrey, R. 2022, 'The mental health of NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic: Two-wave Scottish cohort study', BJPsych Open, 8(1), article no: e23. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjo.2021.1079

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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