Risk factors for mental health symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic in ophthalmic personnel and students in USA (& Canada): a cross-sectional survey study

Yi Pang, Meng Li, Connor Robbs, Jingyun Wang, Samiksha F. Jain, Ben Ticho, Katherine Green, Donny Suh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic poses mental health challenges to frontline healthcare workers. Eye care professionals may be especially susceptible to mental health problems due to high-risk exposures to patients. Yet, no prior research has studied mental health issues among eye care professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Objective: The purpose of this study was to identify risk factors for mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic among eye care professionals. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey study among eye care professionals and students in the United States and Canada from June 23 to July 8, 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 8505 eye care professionals and students received email invitations to the survey and 2134 participated. We measured mental health outcomes including symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress using validated scales, as well as potential risk factors including demographic characteristics, state-level COVID-19 case counts, participants’ patient interactions, childcare responsibilities, and pre-pandemic stress levels. Linear multiple regression and logistic regression analyses were used to determine relationships between risk factors and mental health outcomes. Results: We found that 38.4% of eyecare professional participants in the survey met screening threshold as probable cases of anxiety, depression, or both during the COVID-19 pandemic. Controlling for self-reported pre-pandemic stress level and state COVID-19 case daily cases, significant risk factors for depression, anxiety, and psychological stress during the COVID-19 pandemic included: being female, younger age, and being Black or Asian. Interestingly, we found two somewhat surprising protective factors against depression symptoms: more frequent interactions with patients and having a greater proportion of childcare responsibilities at home. Conclusions: This study showed a high prevalence of mental health problems and revealed disparities in mental health among eye care personnel and students: Female, younger, Black, and Asian populations are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues. These results indicate that it is critical to identify mental health issues more effectively and develop interventions among this population to address this significant and growing public health issue. The strategies and policies should be reflective of the demographic disparities in this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number528
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Anxiety
  • COVID-19
  • Depression
  • Mental health
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Optometrist
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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