UBC Faculty Research and Publications

An Umbrella Review of the Work and Health Impacts of Working in an Epidemic/Pandemic Environment Fan, Jonathan; Senthanar, Sonja; Macpherson, Robert A.; Sharpe, Kimberly; Peters, Cheryl E.; Koehoorn, Mieke, 1966-; McLeod, Chris B.


This umbrella review of reviews examined the evidence on the work and health impacts of working in an epidemic/pandemic environment, factors associated with these impacts, and risk mitigation or intervention strategies that address these factors. We examined review articles published in MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Embase between 2000 and 2020. Data extracted from the included reviews were analyzed using a narrative synthesis. The search yielded 1524 unique citations, of which 31 were included. Included studies were focused on health care workers and the risk of infection to COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses, mental health outcomes, and health care workers’ willingness to respond during a public health event. Reviews identified a variety of individual, social, and organizational factors associated with these work and health outcomes as well as risk mitigation strategies that addressed study outcomes. Only a few reviews examined intervention strategies in the workplace such as physical distancing and quarantine, and none included long-term outcomes of exposure or work during an epidemic/pandemic. Findings suggest a number of critical research and evidence gaps, including the need for reviews on occupational groups potentially exposed to or impacted by the negative work and health effects of COVID-19 in addition to health care workers, the long-term consequences of transitioning to the post-COVID-19 economy on work and health, and research with an equity or social determinants of health lens.

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