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Midwives in the United Kingdom: levels of burnout, depression, anxiety and stress and associated predictors

Hunter, Billie ORCID:, Fenwick, Jennifer, Sidebotham, Mary and Henley, Josie 2019. Midwives in the United Kingdom: levels of burnout, depression, anxiety and stress and associated predictors. Midwifery 79 , 102526. 10.1016/j.midw.2019.08.008

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Objective The overall study aim was to explore the relationship between the emotional wellbeing of UK midwives and their work environment. Specific research questions were to: assess levels of burnout, depression, anxiety and stress experienced by UK midwives; compare levels of burnout, depression, anxiety and stress identified in this sample of UK midwives, with levels reported in Australia, New Zealand and Sweden; identify demographic and work-related factors associated with elevated levels of burnout, depression, anxiety and stress. Design Cross sectional research design using an online survey. The WHELM survey tool was developed within the Australian maternity context and includes a number of validated measures: The Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI), Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21), as well as items from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) ‘Why Midwives Leave’ study (Ball et al., 2002). Setting United Kingdom. Participants An on-line survey was distributed via the RCM to all full midwife members in 2017 (n = 31,898). Data analysis The demographic and work-related characteristics of the sample were analysed using descriptive analyses. Levels of depression, anxiety, stress and burnout, measured by the CBI and DASS scores, were analysed using non-parametric statistical tests. Comparisons were made between groups based on demographic and work characteristics. Mann-Whitney U tests were used for two group comparisons, and Kruskal Wallis tests were used for groups with 2+ groups. Given the large number of analyses undertaken, statistically significant comparisons were identified with a conservative alpha level (p < .01). Findings A total of 1997 midwives responded to the survey, representing 16% of the RCM membership. The key results indicate that the UK's midwifery workforce is experiencing significant levels of emotional distress. 83% (n = 1464) of participants scored moderate and above for personal burnout and 67% (n = 1167) recorded moderate and above for work-related burnout. Client-related burnout was low at 15.5% (n = 268). Over one third of participants scored in the moderate/severe/extreme range for stress (36.7%), anxiety (38%) and depression (33%). Personal and work-related burnout scores, and stress, anxiety and depression scores were well above results from other countries in which the WHELM study has been conducted to date. Midwives were more likely to record high levels of burnout, depression, anxiety and stress if they were aged 40 and below; reported having a disability; had less than 10 years’ experience; worked in a clinical midwifery setting, particularly if they worked in rotation in hospital and in integrated hospital/community settings. Key conclusions and implications for practice Many UK midwives are experiencing high levels of stress, burnout, anxiety and depression, which should be of serious concern to the profession and its leaders. NHS employed clinical midwives are at much greater risk of emotional distress than others surveyed, which has serious implications for the delivery of high quality, safe maternity care. It is also of serious concern that younger, more recently qualified midwives recorded some of the highest burnout, stress, anxiety and depression scores, as did midwives who self-reported a disability. There is considerable scope for change across the service. Proactive support needs to be offered to younger, recently qualified midwives and midwives with a disability to help sustain their emotional wellbeing. The profession needs to lobby for systems level changes in how UK maternity care is resourced and provided. Making this happen will require support and commitment from a range of relevant stakeholders, at regional and national levels.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Healthcare Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0266-6138
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 September 2019
Date of Acceptance: 11 August 2019
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 19:01

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