Teachers’ and teens’ mental health suffers major COVID-19 hit – CIDRAP | Team Cansler

The COVID-19 pandemic has put psychological stress on both teachers and young teens, according to two new US studies, with the former — particularly distance teachers — reporting more anxiety than other workers and the latter reporting depression due to financial strains.

Teachers at 40% higher risk than health workers

In the first study published yesterday in educational researcherResearchers from James Madison University and Johns Hopkins University assessed mental health among randomly selected Facebook users who responded to the US daily online survey of trends and impact of COVID-19. Researchers analyzed data from nearly 3 million adult respondents — including 130,000 teachers — from September 8, 2020 to March 28, 2021.

Teachers were 40% more likely to report anxiety in the past 7 days than healthcare workers, 20% more likely than clerical workers, and 30% more likely than workers in other occupations such as the military, agriculture, and legal professions. Teachers with a remote role reported feeling isolated 60% more likely than their face-to-face peers, and female teachers were 70% more likely to experience anxiety than their male peers.

Compared to teachers, workers in healthcare, office, and other settings were significantly less likely to report anxiety (odds ratios [ORs], 0.70, 0.81 and 0.78, respectively). Likewise, healthcare workers were slightly less likely than teachers to report depression (OR, 0.95) and feelings of isolation (OR, 0.96). However, office workers and other white-collar workers reported feeling isolated significantly more than teachers (ORs 1.20 and 1.10, respectively).

Teachers teaching students remotely were at significantly higher risk of depression (OR, 1.12) and isolation (OR, 1.56) than teachers with face-to-face assignments. Across all occupations, women were 90% more likely to report anxiety, 40% more likely to report depression, and 20% more likely to feel isolated.

Navigating uncertainty, evolving roles

“Even before the pandemic, teacher welfare was a major concern for school leaders,” said lead author Joseph Kush, PhD, of James Madison University, in a press release from the American Educational Research Association.

He said the team was surprised that teachers had a higher rate 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.

“Although our study did not examine the reasons for teachers’ anxiety,” he continued, “we can expect particularly high levels of stress for distance learning environments and because of uncertainty about how schools plan classes, abrupt changes in lesson plans and teaching methods.” the rapid introduction of new technologies.”

While various policies have been proposed to promote safe, supportive learning environments when schools reopen after closures, the authors said these policies often failed to consider the magnitude of potential negative impacts on teachers’ mental health or offered alternative approaches to addressing these issues .

Kush said the results showed the need for tools and programs to help teachers deal with this and ensure consistent lines of communication between teachers, principals, staff and students. “Teacher well-being ultimately affects their ability to teach effectively,” he said. “When teachers feel supported, it fosters student retention and learning outcomes. Their voices need to be included in decision-making.”

Low-income youth most at risk

In the Pandemic Teen Mental Health Study, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) analyzed data from 9,720 U.S. adolescents who responded to at least one survey from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, a sample of more than 10,000 US children 11 to 14 years old, from May 2020 to May 2021. Median age was 12.9 years, 47.8% were girls, 18.2% were black, and 77.6% were white.

Participants had data on pre-pandemic household income and mental health. The study was published yesterday in The Lancet Regional Health-America.

The authors noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted global public health, but has also exacerbated financial problems in already ailing families and contributed to newfound financial strains in others.

Over 70% of young people said their families have lost wages during the pandemic. Teenagers in families with income losses were more likely to be Black (19.5% vs. 12.2%), Hispanic (22.0% vs. 12.9%), and living below the poverty line (15.2% vs. 4.2%) than teenagers without financial loss. These populations also reported higher levels of stress related to financial strain.

Financial losses in the family contributed to depression among the participants. While adolescents in all income brackets whose families had lost income during the pandemic reported more depressive symptoms (mean 15.3 vs. 14.8 symptoms) than those who did not, the effect was most pronounced among those from low-income households Income, who also reported more stress (mean 7.7 vs. 7.3 symptoms), but no difference in substance use pattern.

“The association between financial stress and depressive symptoms was robust to the addition of multiple environmental influences,” the researchers wrote. “Both factors at the family level (family conflict) and at the individual level (financial stress) mediated the relationship between loss of wages and depressive symptoms,” suggesting that financial hardship affects this group through a complex network of indirect pathways.

Both clinicians and policy makers should use the findings to help alleviate the psychological burden of financial hardship and family conflict on young people during economic crises.

“People often think that children don’t feel or understand financial stress, but this study shows not only that they do, but that this stress also affects their mental health,” said senior author Ran Barzilay, MD, PhD, in a CHOP press release.

“Given the strain that inflation is likely to place on family finances, our results underscore that financial stress is a major risk factor for the mental health of adolescents in economic crises and that managing this stress is critical in the current global mental health crisis of is important to young people.”

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