Pioneering research carried out by psychologists at the University of Dundee has uncovered a direct link between anxiety disorder and a sense of not belonging to a group – among psychiatric nurses.
A team of researchers led by Professor Fabio Sani, have analysed data from a study carried out at a local hospital last year.
They chose to look at psychiatric nurses given the high levels of stress in their daily working lives.
The findings showed that over four times as many nurses (26.3 per cent) who did not feel part of a group with their colleagues exhibited Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) compared to just 6.3 per cent of nurses who felt they belonged.
The team, whose previous work includes a study of 4,000 people which explored the links between group identification and happiness, are now working alongside the armed forces to examine how group identification impacts on serving soldiers.
Professor Sani is now presenting his findings at universities throughout the UK and has addressed medical professionals at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
He said: “The psychiatric nurses were handed a questionnaire which included a scale measuring identification with colleagues and a further scale that measured general anxiety disorder – which is a very commonly diagnosed mental disorder. It is one of the many disorders listed in the DSM-5, the diagnostic statistical manual for mental health.
“We basically asked the nurses the extent to which they had a sense of belonging to the group of nurses in the hospital.
“We chose psychiatric nurses because we are aware that there are increasing mental issues with them due to being exposed to very stressful situations – taking care of people in distress. Taking care of people who are in distress for up to eight hours a day is in itself very stressful.
“We wanted to see to what degree these nurses are mentally distressed was partly due to their degree of identification with their work group.
“We thought these people may be vulnerable but if they manage to identify with other nurses and have a sense of solidarity it could shield these nurses from developing a mental illness. That’s why we investigated them and that’s exactly what we found.”