According to a new study published in the journal Educational Researcher, teachers experienced significantly more anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic than healthcare, office, and other workers. In addition, teachers who worked remotely reported substantially higher levels of anxiety and depression than those who taught in person.
By using the U.S. COVID-19 Trends and Impact Survey, a large national online survey assessing the pandemic’s impact on various social categories, the scientists examined the mental health of over three million employed individuals, including 130,000 pre-K-12 U.S. teachers.
The analysis revealed that teachers were 40 percent more likely to report anxiety symptoms than healthcare workers, 30 percent more likely than military, farming, and legal workers, and 20 percent more likely than office workers. Moreover, among teachers, those working remotely were 60 percent more likely to report feelings of isolation than those working in-person, while female teachers were 70 percent more likely to experience anxiety than male teachers.
“Even before the pandemic, teacher well-being was a major concern for school leaders,” said study lead author Joseph Kush, an assistant professor of Psychology at the James Madison University. “Our results demonstrate just how stressful the pandemic has been for teachers, especially those who are female and those who taught remotely.”
The researchers were surprised that teachers reported substantially higher rates of anxiety than healthcare workers. “We would have guessed healthcare workers battling COVID-19 on the front lines during a public health crisis would display the most anxiety,” Kush said.
Although the study didn’t investigate the reasons behind this phenomenon, the scientists argue that it may have been caused by the high levels of stress due to the uncertainty over how schools were planning to continue providing instruction, the sudden and frequent changes in lesson plans, and the need for quickly learning new technologies and teaching methods.
These findings suggest the urgent need to develop tools and programs to safeguard the mental health of teachers and consistent lines of communication among school leaders, teachers, and students. “Teachers’ well-being ultimately impacts their ability to effectively teach. When teachers feel supported, it boosts retention and student learning outcomes. Their voices must be included in decision-making processes, as their well-being is paramount for effective learning environments,” Kush concluded.
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