Researchers Use Digital Health Wearables To Identify Pandemic-Induced Stress In Healthcare Professionals

Researchers at Mount Sinai conducted a study using wearable devices to examine the physiological effects on healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results showed that those with higher resilience and emotional support had a lower chance of developing stress.

This study looked into the effects of stress on 361 healthcare workers from seven hospitals in the New York City health system. A custom-made digital health application and wearable devices were used to assess the participants’ levels of perceived stress, emotional support, optimism, quality of life, and resilience. Resilience was defined as having the capability to cope with adversity and being less vulnerable to external stressors. Additionally, an Apple Watch was worn to measure the changes in heart rate variability, which is an indication of stress.

The study found that those participants who reported high levels of resilience, optimism, and emotional support were less likely to experience both perceived and longitudinal stress than those with low resilience or a lack of emotional support. Additionally, their physiological stress patterns, as determined by the autonomic nervous system, were different from those who had low resilience or lacked emotional support, indicating that outside influences can have a significant effect on not only perceived stress, but also the body’s physical response to it. According to the press release, Zahi Fayad, PhD, co-founder of the Mount Sinai Clinical Intelligence Center and the study’s co-author, noted that healthcare workers have had an especially stressful experience during the pandemic, especially as the virus continues to spread. He further stated that the number of COVID-19 cases in the community had a long-term impact on stress levels, with healthcare workers being much more likely to experience both perceived and physiological stress when faced with an abundance of cases. It is therefore important for the community to provide emotional support and resilience for these workers.

The findings of this study emphasize how vital social and emotional backing is for healthcare personnel, particularly during a pandemic. If this type of support is inadequate, healthcare workers may suffer from heightened psychological and physical strain. This research is among the initial to not only illustrate the impact the pandemic has had on healthcare professionals, but also to demonstrate the usefulness of resilience and social support as means of providing assistance in an effective and efficient way.