CITF-funded researchers Dr. Tracy Kirkham and PhD student Christopher MacDonald from the University of Toronto and colleagues found that the COVID-19 pandemic had negative effects on Canadian paramedics in 2021 including reduction in life satisfaction, mental and physical health, and the ability to cope with stress. The impacts were greater among female paramedics and/or those with risk factors for underlying mental disorders. These preliminary findings were presented in a poster at the 28th International Symposium on Epidemiology in Occupational Health (EPICOH) on October 25, 2021 and are not yet peer-reviewed.

Researchers collected data from 2,499 paramedics across five Canadian provinces using online validated questionnaires about stress and risk of mental health disorders, between January and October 2021.

Key findings

  • Most paramedics (81%) reported reduced satisfaction with life associated with COVID-19 and 8.5% reported suicidal thoughts in the two weeks preceding the questionnaire.
  • 32% were identified as being at risk for major depressive disorder (MDD) using the patient health questionnaire (PHQ-9) and 41% were identified as at risk of probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD using the PTSD-5 screening test), values which are higher than previously reported for Canadian paramedics.
  • had a positive screening test (PHQ-9) for major depressive disorder (MDD), and 41% had a positive screening test (PTSD-5) for probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which are higher than has previously been reported for Canadian paramedics.
  • Females were more likely to meet screening criteria for MDD than their male counterparts (36% to 29%) and to express less satisfaction with life (84% to 79%). Overall, the survey included more males (56%) than females (44%). Further investigation is warranted to determine the reason for these disparities between genders.

MacDonald C, Demers PA, Grunau B, Goldfarb D, O’Neill D, Armour R, Kirkham TL; Mental Health and Life Satisfaction Among Canadian Paramedics during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

See the poster here