Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Teachers in the United States experienced more anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic than healthcare, office and other workers, according to new research.
The study, published Monday in Educational Researcher, found U.S. teachers were 40% more likely to report anxiety symptoms than healthcare workers. The same elementary, middle and high school teachers were 20% more likely to report stress compared to office workers and 30% more likely to report anxiety than workers in other occupations, including military, farming and legal professions, much to the surprise of researchers.
"We would have guessed healthcare workers battling COVID-19 on the front lines during a public health crisis would display the most anxiety," said Joseph Kush, an assistant professor of graduate psychology at James Madison University.
Researchers used data collected between Sept. 8, 2020 and March 28, 2021 from the U.S. COVID-19 Trends and Impact Survey. The large national online survey pulled information from 3 million employed workers, including 130,000 teachers, who were asked to rate their mental health during the pandemic.
Researchers found that out of those teachers who taught remotely during the pandemic, 60% were more likely to report feelings of isolation than their peers in the classroom. Female teachers were 70% more likely to experience anxiety than male teachers. Healthcare workers were less likely to report depression and feelings of isolation.
"Even before the pandemic, teacher well-being was a major concern for school leaders," Kush said. "Our results demonstrate just how stressful the pandemic has been for teachers, especially those who are female and those who taught remotely."
"Although our study didn't examine the reasons behind teachers' anxiety levels," said Kush, "we might expect particularly high levels of stress due to uncertainty over how schools were planning to provide instruction, abrupt changes to lesson plans and teaching methods for remote-learning environments, and the rapid adoption of new technologies."
While there have been a number of studies showing an increase in anxiety for school children during the pandemic, there are few that have focused on teachers. Researchers say these findings show the need for programs to support educators' mental health.
"Teachers' well-being ultimately impacts their ability to effectively teach," said Kush. "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."