Theses Doctoral

A Crisis Within A Public Health Crisis—U.S. Public Health Workers’ Race-Related Stress, Trauma, Anxiety, Depression, and Burnout During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Predicting Burnout

Wallace, Barbara C.

While the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the general U.S. public health workforce have been well described, the effects of the COVID-19 response on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) working in public health have not been adequately characterized. BIPOC public health professionals may have suffered, potentially, greater stress and more negative health impacts during the pandemic due to being part of communities experiencing severe COVID-19 health inequities and the potential for racism-related stress in the workplace. This study utilized a cross-sectional design to investigate the associations between risk factors/predictors and higher levels of burnout among BIPOC public health professionals working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey data was collected using the Qualtrics survey platform and SPSS was used for data analysis. Survey items measured multiple domains including professional experience (i.e., years of experience, job functions, hours worked, volunteer work), mental and physical health status (i.e., co-morbidities, BMI, COVID-19 diagnosis, insomnia, anxiety, depression, trauma, burnout), professional and personal stress (before and during the pandemic), and racism-related stress (i.e., discrimination, harassment, heightened vigilance, cultural taxation).

Of the total respondents (n = 486), 80% experienced insomnia, 68.5% experienced depression, 81.7% experienced anxiety and 61.3% experienced trauma. BIPOC public health professionals suffered a moderately high overall level of burnout (mean = 2.578, SD = 0.486, min = 1, max = 3.9) and a high level of exhaustion (mean = 2.744, SD = 0.532, min = 1, max = 4). Paired t-tests found respondents’ physical and mental health status were each significantly worse during the pandemic (p < .000). Respondents also had significantly worse professional and personal stress during the pandemic (p < .000). Backward stepwise regression found higher burnout significantly predicted by: not having sought counseling; lower rating of mental health during COVID-19; higher past year mental distress (i.e., depression, anxiety, insomnia and trauma); higher past month perceived stress; and higher vigilance. These findings emerge as important in informing the public health field regarding the current and future needs of BIPOC public health professionals during the pandemic and beyond.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Wallace, Barbara
Fullilove, Robert
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 22, 2022