Mental Health Cortisol and Stress in Female Healthcare Providers
Background Stress is globally recognized as a risk factor impacting workers’ health and workplace safety. Women healthcare professionals are at risk for considerable stress given the demanding nature of their jobs and working conditions. This study assesses levels of stress among the female healthcare professionals according to measures of their cortisol levels, subjective stress, and quality of sleep. Participants and Methods Using a cross-sectional research design, data on stress was collected from 335 apparently healthy adult women healthcare professionals work in the United Arab Emirates. Eligible women were asked to provide morning and bedtime saliva samples for analysis of their cortisol levels. Perceived Stress Scale, Stress Symptoms Scale, Brief Coping Scale, and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index were used to assess perceived stress level, symptoms of stress, strategies for stress coping, and sleep quality, consecutively. Results Of 335 participants, 121 (36.15%) had impaired morning cortisol levels (below normal range of 0.094-1.551 µg/dL) and 48 (14.3%) had impaired bedtime cortisol levels (above 0.359 µg/dL). Around 57% of women reported moderate levels of perceived stress, with more frequent reporting of symptoms of stress including heart rate, back and/or neck pain. Poor sleep quality was reported by around 60% of study participants. No significant association were noted between cortisol and psychosocial measurements of stress nor sleep quality. However, having night shift and longer shift duration of more than 8 hours associated significantly with impaired morning and bedtime cortisol levels (P ≥ 0.05). impaired cortisol level was strongly dependent upon using adaptive coping strategies through active coping, acceptance and seeking emotional support (P ≥ 0.05).
Conclusion Evaluating cortisol levels and subjective stress could help to identify groups with impaired response to stress and elevated cortisol levels. Our findings suggest examining shift work pattern and stress coping strategies in female healthcare professionals to promote their health, productivity and maintain workplace safety.