Kaitlin Adams


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Tracking Mental Health Risks and Coping Strategies in Healthcare Workers’ Online Conversations Across the COVID-19 Pandemic
Molly Ireland | Kaitlin Adams | Sean Farrell
Proceedings of the Eighth Workshop on Computational Linguistics and Clinical Psychology

The mental health risks of the COVID-19 pandemic are magnified for medical professionals, such as doctors and nurses. To track conversational markers of psychological distress and coping strategies, we analyzed 67.25 million words written by self-identified healthcare workers (N = 5,409; 60.5% nurses, 40.5% physicians) on Reddit beginning in June 2019. Dictionary-based measures revealed increasing emotionality (including more positive and negative emotion and more swearing), social withdrawal (less affiliation and empathy, more “they” pronouns), and self-distancing (fewer “I” pronouns) over time. Several effects were strongest for conversations that were least health-focused and self-relevant, suggesting that long-term changes in social and emotional behavior are general and not limited to personal or work-related experiences. Understanding protective and risky coping strategies used by healthcare workers during the pandemic is fundamental for maintaining mental health among front-line workers during periods of chronic stress, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.