(HealthDay News) — The potential for moral injury is high among combat veterans and COVID-19 health care workers (HCWs) and is associated with negative mental health outcomes, according to a study published online April 5 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Jason A. Nieuwsma, Ph.D., from the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues compared patterns of potential moral injury (PMI) between 618 post-9/11 military combat veterans and 2,099 HCWs surveyed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers found that 46.1 percent of post-9/11 veterans and 50.7 percent of HCWs endorsed other-induced PMI, while 24.1 percent of post-9/11 veterans and 18.2 percent of HCWs endorsed self-induced PMI. Different types of PMI were significantly associated with gender, race, enlisted versus officer status, and postbattle traumatic experiences among veterans, while age, race, working in a high COVID-19-risk setting, and reported COVID-19 exposure were associated with different types of PMI among HCWs. Among both veterans and HCWs, endorsing either type of PMI was associated with significantly higher depressive symptoms and worse quality of life as well as higher burnout among HCWs.


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“Moral injury prevention and intervention efforts for HCWs may benefit from consulting models used with veterans,” the authors write.

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