Teachers have felt significantly more anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic than healthcare, clerical and other workers, according to a new study released today. Those teaching remotely reported significantly higher rates of depression and feelings of isolation than those teaching in person.
The study, published in Education researcherwas directed by Joseph M. Kush at James Madison University and Elena Badillo Goicoechea, Rachelle J. Musci, and Elizabeth A. Stuart at Johns Hopkins University.
The authors found that American teachers were 40% more likely to report symptoms of anxiety than healthcare workers, 20% more likely than office workers, and 30% more likely than workers in other occupations, such as as the military, agricultural and legal professions. Among teachers, those teaching remotely were 60% more likely to report feeling isolated than their in-person peers. Female teachers were 70% more likely to experience anxiety than male teachers.
“Even before the pandemic, teacher well-being was a top concern for school leaders,” said Kush, a graduate assistant professor of psychology at James Madison University. “Our results demonstrate how stressful the pandemic has been for teachers, especially those who are women and those who have taught remotely.”
Kush said he and his co-authors were surprised that teachers reported significantly higher rates of anxiety than healthcare workers. “We would have guessed that healthcare workers battling COVID-19 on the front lines during a public health crisis would show the most anxiety,” Kush said.
The authors also found that, compared to teachers, healthcare workers were less likely to report depression and feelings of isolation, although the magnitude of the difference was small.
“Although our study did not examine the reasons for teachers’ level of anxiety,” Kush said, “we might expect particularly high levels of stress due to uncertainty about how schools planning to deliver education, abrupt changes in lesson plans and teaching methods for remote learning environments, and the rapid adoption of new technologies.”
Across all occupations, women were 90% more likely than men to suffer from anxiety and 40% more likely to suffer from depression. Women were also 20% more likely to experience feelings of isolation.
To examine the mental health of K-12 teachers and professionals in other professions, the authors used data collected from adult participants between September 8, 2020 and March 28, 2021, from the US COVID-19 Trends and Impact Survey, a large national online survey developed by the Delphi Group at Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook. Survey respondents, who included nearly 3 million employed people, including 130,000 teachers, were asked to rate whether they had experienced symptoms of anxiety, depression and isolation in the previous seven days. .
According to the authors, their study is the first to empirically assess teachers’ mental health during the pandemic using a large national dataset, with the findings being highly generalizable to teachers in the United States.
Kush said the findings show the need for tools and programs to support and protect teacher mental health and consistent lines of communication between school leaders, teachers, staff and students.
“Teacher well-being ultimately impacts their ability to teach effectively,” Kush said. “When teachers feel supported, it improves student retention and learning outcomes. Their voice must be included in decision-making processes, as their well-being is paramount to effective learning environments.”
The authors noted that more data and analysis will be needed to assess the duration of the pandemic’s impact on teacher wellbeing.
Joseph M. Kush et al, Teacher Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Education researcher (2022). DOI: 10.3102/0013189X221134281
Provided by the American Educational Research Association (AERA)
Quote: Teachers felt more anxiety than healthcare workers during the pandemic, according to a mental health study (2022, November 15) retrieved November 15, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022- 11-teachers-experienced-anxiety-health-workers.html
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