NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Respiratory Health (RESPIRE)

Psychological issues faced by primary care teams in Malaysia

This project is based at the University of Malaya in Malaysia


  • Project title:  Exploring psychological issues faced by primary care teams in Malaysia amidst COVID-19 pandemic
  • Based at:  University of Malaya, Malaysia
  • Start date:  May 2020
  • End date:  August 2021
  • Co-Principal investigators:  Professor Dr Ee Ming Khoo and Associate Professor Adina Abdullah
  • Project team:  Professor Dr Su May Liew, Dr Norita Hussein, Associate Professor Nik Sherina Hanafi, Associate Professor Cheong Ai Theng, Dr Ahmad Ihsan Bin Abu Bakar, Professor Hilary Pinnock, Dr Tracy Jackson, Professor Khatijah Abdullah


Health care workers (HCWs) in primary care are at the forefront of treating patients suspected of COVID-19 infection.

Previous studies have shown that caring for patients during disease outbreaks has a major impact on the psychological health of HCWs.

HCWs reported high levels of psychological distress, frequent concerns about their own and families' health, worries about their functional ability and fears of stigmatisation. Studies on previous SARS outbreaks found HCWs faced higher job stress, social isolation and health fears.

Factors that have been found to be associated with HCWs' psychological distress include emotional exhaustion due to overburdened health care systems, rapidly changing medical information and procedures, media scrutiny, being a nurse, perception of risk to themselves, lifestyle affected by the disease outbreak, and personal vulnerability.

During the pandemic, the ever-changing guide and protocols due to disease updates may contribute to anxiety and stress among HCWs managing COVID-19 infection.

Aim and impact

The aim of the study is to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wellbeing and psychological stress of primary HCWs in Malaysia.

This research will provide information on psychological issues faced by primary care teams who are at the front line of the pandemic. It will provide an insight into approaches to support their psychosocial needs, influencing early support given to HCWs after the current first wave and in the event of any second wave of infection.

Findings could also influence responses in other countries and help to prepare those yet to face this pandemic, and any potential unforeseen pandemics in the future.

Key developments

  • Final report submitted.

  • An e-poster titled “Exploring psychological issues faced by primary healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic was presented at the 10th International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG) World Conference 2021.
  • A stakeholder engagement virtual forum titled “Emotional wellbeing and coping during COVID-19 Pandemic” was conducted on the 4th April 2021.

Project data

Download the project Data Management Plan

View the project metadata on the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway