Research Article| Volume 41, P221-226, December 2022

Associations between compassion fatigue, burnout and secondary traumatic stress with lifestyle factors in mental health nurses: A multicenter study from Uganda

Published:August 31, 2022DOI:


      • More than 98 % of mental health nurses in Uganda report moderate levels of burnout.
      • Almost half of mental health nurses in Uganda report significant traumatic stress.
      • Burnout and traumatic stress are associated with poor sleep quality.
      • Compassion fatigue, burnout and traumatic stress are associated with inactivity.
      • Compassion fatigue is associated with harmful drinking.



      This cross-sectional study aimed (a) to explore levels of compassion satisfaction, secondary traumatic stress, and symptoms of burnout among Ugandan mental health nurses working in regional referral hospitals in Uganda during the Covid-19 pandemic, and (b) to investigate associations between compassion satisfaction, secondary traumatic stress, and symptoms of burnout and sedentary levels, physical activity (PA) levels, sleep quality, and harmful drinking.

      Material and methods

      In total 108 mental health nurses from 8 regional referral hospitals across Uganda (age = 34.8 ± 10.0 years; 55.6 % female) completed the Professional Quality of Life Scale-5, (PQoLS-5), the Simple Physical Activity Questionnaire (SIMPAQ), Physical Activity Vital Sign (PAVS), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), and Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test – Concise (AUDIT-C). Spearman Rho correlations and Mann-Whitney U tests were applied.


      ProQOL-5 compassion satisfaction correlated significantly with SIMPAQ walking, PSQI and AUDIT-C, ProQOL-5 burnout with SIMPAQ exercise and PSQI and ProQOL-5 traumatic with SIMPAQ walking and PSQI. Mental health nurses meeting PA guidelines reported higher ProQOL-5 compassion satisfaction and lower ProQOL-5 burnout and traumatic stress than those who did not. Those who reported a poor sleep quality reported significantly less ProQOL-5 compassion satisfaction and higher ProQOL-5 burnout than those who did not. Those who reported harmful drinking patterns reported a significantly lower compassion satisfaction versus those who did not.


      In mental health nurses, a lower professional quality of life is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle. The effectiveness and efficacy of resilience and self-care programs for mental health nurses focusing on unhealthy lifestyle patterns should be explored.


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