Teach your way to wellbeing

Education | Brighten Youth Edu Centre 5 Jan 2021

According to a 2020 study by University College London's Institute of Education, the mental health and wellbeing of teachers in England is similar to that of other professions (bera-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/rev3.3228). Teachers were also less likely to report feelings of low self-worth.

The study was based on data collected from 60,000 teachers over a decade, and was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, a charitable trust which aims to improve social wellbeing by funding associated research.

Researchers based their analysis on data from 11 large-scale surveys collected over the past decade.

Within these surveys, teachers and other professionals were asked questions about their wellbeing and mental health. This included subjective measures, as well as some surveys about prescription of antidepressant medication.

Among the other professions included in the study, authors and writers, graphic designers, journalists and solicitors were found to be among the most anxious and with the lowest levels of reported self-worth.

Overall, the study found that 22 percent of secondary and 20 percent of primary teachers were unhappy, compared to figures of 21 percent and 23 percent for demographically similar individuals working in other professional jobs. Relatively few primary (5 percent) and secondary (7 percent) teachers had low levels of self-worth, compared to around 11 percent for other professional workers.

Teachers had similar levels of anxiety, unhappiness and life satisfaction to other professional groups.

The situation was brighter for headteachers, who were found to be happier, have higher levels of life satisfaction and were more likely to feel that their life is worthwhile than other occupational groups.

Accountants, IT professionals and human resource workers were among the happiest and least anxious, and had high levels of life satisfaction.

The study's coauthor, John Jerrim from theUCL Social Research Institute,said: "A myth seems to have emerged that teachers have worse mental health and lower levels of wellbeing than other groups. Our study provides clear, comprehensive evidence that this simply isn't true. On the whole, teachers have similar levels of wellbeing to other professional employees."

The data was collected before the emergence of Covid-19. While there are currently dozens of ongoing studies being conducted around the world, it is not known how this event has impacted the mental health of different professional groups.

The survey also recognizes the challenges teachers continue to face, including governmental stressors, shifting targets and expectations, parental pressure and insufficient salaries. The dataset can be used to help identify pressure points in a teacher's career, including starting in a new role or at a new school. This allows schools and other institutions to offer targeted support during these particularly difficult periods.

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