Public Health Employees' Perceived Stress during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Their Levels of Physical Activity

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The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the stress levels of public health employees in local and state public health departments. This study aimed to evaluate whether the perceived stress levels differed between the stages of readiness for change for physical activity and stress management techniques among public health workers. Secondly, this study assessed whether stress levels differed depending on their role in the department and race/ethnicity. The study sample included 101 public health employees from local public health departments in Southern California. Participants completed a survey that included the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), demographic questions, and other questions about their engagement in physical activity and stress reduction activities. There was no significant difference among the stages of readiness for change for physical activity. The results showed a significant difference in the perceived stress scores between the stages of readiness for change for stress management techniques. Participants in the maintenance stage of readiness for stress management techniques showed significantly lower mean PSS-10 scores (M = 18.46, sd = 4.11) than in the other stages of readiness. Mean perceived stress scores were significantly different between entry-level employees (M = 20.80, sd = 4.65) and managers/directors (M = 18.00, sd = 3.25). Finally, perceived stress scores were significantly higher among employees who identified as Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color (BIPOC) (M = 21.46, sd = 4.37) compared to White/Caucasian employees (M = 18.97, sd = 4.01). This thesis provides recommendations for implementing holistic multi-dimensional interventions for public health employees to improve their well-being.
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Public Health
Public Health