Newswise—Washington, November 15, 2022—Teachers have been significantly more anxious than healthcare, office workers and other workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research released today. Those who taught remotely reported significantly higher rates of depression and feelings of isolation than those who taught in person. The study, published in educational researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, was directed by Joseph M. Kush at James Madison University and Elena Badillo Goicoechea, Rashelle J. Musci, and Elizabeth A. Stuart at Johns Hopkins University.
The authors found that US teachers were 40 percent more likely than health care workers to report anxiety symptoms, 20 percent more likely than clerical workers, and 30 percent more likely than workers in other occupations such as the military, agriculture, and legal professions. Teachers who taught remotely were 60 percent more likely to feel isolated than their peers who were on-site. Female teachers suffered from anxiety 70 percent more often than male teachers.
“Even before the pandemic, the well-being of teachers was a major concern for school leaders,” said Kush, an assistant professor of psychology with a degree from James Madison University. “Our findings show how devastating the pandemic has been for teachers, particularly women and those who have been teaching remotely.”
Kush said he and his co-authors were surprised to find that teachers reported significantly higher rates of anxiety than healthcare workers. “We would have guessed that healthcare workers on the front lines fighting COVID-19 during a public health crisis would show the greatest fear,” Kush said.
The authors also found that health workers were less likely to report depression and feelings of isolation than teachers, although the difference was small.
“Although our study did not examine the causes of teacher anxiety,” Kush said, “due to uncertainty about how schools plan to deliver classes, as well as abrupt changes in lesson plans and teaching methods, we can expect particularly high levels of stress for distance learning environments.” and the rapid adoption of new technologies.”
Across all occupations, women were 90 percent more likely to experience anxiety and 40 percent more likely to have depression than men. Women were also 20 percent more likely to feel isolated.
To examine the pre-grade 12 mental health of teachers and professionals in other occupations, 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 were collected, a large national online survey developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Delphi Group and Facebook. Survey participants, including nearly 3 million workers, including 130,000 teachers, were asked to rate whether they had experienced symptoms of anxiety, depression and isolation in the past seven days.
According to the authors, their study is the first to empirically assess the mental health of teachers during the pandemic using a large national data set, with the results being highly generalizable for US teachers
According to Kush, the findings demonstrate the need for tools and programs to support and protect teachers’ mental health and for consistent lines of communication between school leaders, teachers, staff and students.
“Teacher well-being ultimately affects their ability to teach effectively,” Kush said. “When teachers feel supported, it improves student retention and learning outcomes. Their voices need to 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 how long the impact of the pandemic on teacher well-being will last.
Study quote: Kush JM, Badillo Goicoechea E, Musci RJ, & Stuart EA (2022). Mental health of teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic. educational researcher. Pre-released November 15, 2022. https://www.doi.org/10.3102/0013189X221134281.
That American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the largest national interdisciplinary research association dedicated to the scientific study of education and learning. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge of education, advances scholarly inquiry related to education, and encourages the use of research to improve education and benefit the community. Find AERA Facebook, Twitterand Instagram.