The Relationship between Gender Role, Job Role, and Risk and Protective Factors for Posttraumatic Stress Symptomatology among Healthcare Workers during the First Wave of COVID-19

Annamaria Petito, Melania Severo, Anna Maria Prencipe, Antonio Ventriglio, Gilda Cinnella, Antonello Bellomo, Mario Altamura, Grazia D’Onofrio, Salvatore Iuso


Background: The emotional experiences of healthcare workers during the first wave of COVID-19 warrant further investigation especially regarding gender differences. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between gender role, job role and risk and protective factors for the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Methods: A total of 521 healthcare workers completed the survey during the first pandemic wave. Psychosocial Index (PSI) was used to assess stress, well-being, distress, illness behaviour, and quality of life; the distress caused by stressful events was evaluated with the Impact of Event Scale – Revised (IES-R) and resilience was measured with the Connor-Davidson resilience scale (CD RISC).

Results: Associations were found between female gender and distress with and without sleep disturbance (p<0.0001). Assessment of PTSD symptoms showed significance on symptoms of avoidance (p=0.0006), intrusiveness of thought (p=0.0016), and hyperarousal (p=0.003) to the disadvantage of female compared to male. Nurses emerged as the most vulnerable professional role about distress (p<0.0001), sleep disturbance (p<0.0001), and abnormal illness behaviors (p<0.0001). Finally, the study of post-traumatic symptomatology showed significance for avoidance (p=0.0072), intrusive thinking (p=0.0071), and hyperarousal (p=0.0019) to the disadvantage of the medical and nursing role in the female gender compared to the medical and nursing role in the male gender and other professional role in the female gender.

Conclusions: Such findings suggest, there are differences in gender, rather than professional role and resilience factor, in emotional management in a particularly stressful condition, such as that of the first pandemic wave.


COVID-19; Healthcare workers; Posttraumatic stress symptomatology; Resilience; Gender.

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