Hopelessness in New York State physicians during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak

Alexander A. Johnson, Brendan K. Wallace, Qianhui Xu, Stanford Chihuri, Christina W. Hoven, Ezra S. Susser, Charles DiMaggio, David Abramson, Howard F. Andrews, Barbara H. Lang, Megan Ryan, Guohua Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In the United States, New York State's health care system experienced unprecedented stress as an early epicenter of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This study aims to assess the level of hopelessness in New York State physicians working on the frontlines during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak. Methods: A confidential online survey sent to New York State health care workers by the state health commissioner's office was used to gather demographic and hopelessness data as captured by a brief Hopelessness Scale. Adjusted linear regression models were used to assess the associations of physician age, sex, and number of triage decisions made, with level of hopelessness. Results: In total, 1330 physicians were included, of whom 684 were male (51.4%). Their average age was 52.4 years (SD = 12.7), with the majority of respondents aged 50 years and older (55.2%). Almost half of the physician respondents (46.3%) worked directly with COVID-19 patients, and 163 (12.3%) were involved in COVID-19-related triage decisions. On adjusted analysis, physicians aged 40 to 49 years had significantly higher levels of hopelessness compared with those aged 50 years or more (μ = 0.441, SD = 0.152, P = 0.004). Those involved in 1 to 5 COVID-19-related triage decisions had a significantly lower mean hopelessness score (μ = −0.572, SD = 0.208, P = 0.006) compared with physicians involved in none of these decisions. Conclusion: Self-reported hopelessness was significantly higher among physicians aged 40 to 49 years and those who had not yet been involved in a life or death triage decision. Further work is needed to identify strategies to support physicians at high risk for adverse mental health outcomes during public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-157
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Health care workforce
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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