Have you ever been too tired from teaching to work out? Are you mentally exhausted after a day at school? Have you put on weight since starting teaching?
If so, it seems like you’re not alone. Earlier this year, I conducted some research to find out more in regards to Australian teachers’ health. While the survey did not have thousands of entrants, It is plain to see that particular trends were emerging.
Being a teacher myself, I had my hypothesis that teachers’ health was an ongoing issue, and it was most likely related to a lack of time. However, the results that came from the initial results were staggering in their
What was the Australian teachers’ health survey
The survey I conducted was only a short one, tackling three fundamental questions.
- How experienced the teacher was.
- If their health had suffered/taken a step backwards since beginning teaching.
- What they believed their main barriers were.
These three questions were to give me enough data to make a judgement on the lifestyle of the average Australian teacher.
Who took part?
The survey was partaken by mostly young teachers, within their first ten years in the profession, with almost 60% of all entrants in their first ten years.
With the vast majority of teachers being within their first ten years, 17% of answers came from those between eleven and twenty years service, with another 17% coming from teachers over twenty-years. The difference was made with pre-service teachers (8%).
Are you a teacher? Sign up for the FREE teachers’ health newsletter
The 3 Survey Findings That Worried Everybody!
1. 86% of Teachers claim to have higher stress levels due to teaching.
Out of the people surveyed, a whopping 86% stated that they had increased stress levels due to teaching. This number was concerning, but not surprising.
The stresses of teaching is not a new phenomenon, especially to educators. The stressful nature of the classroom, along with high expectations on teachers lead to stress, particularly in younger teachers. The most troubling aspect of work-related fear is that it is a nasty habit to break. It is common practice for emotionally exhausted teachers to use reactive and punitive responses that contribute to adverse classroom climates and student-teacher relationships (Osher et al. 2007; Yoon 2002). The fact that a stressed teacher may ‘take it out’ on their students is an unfair consequence, but an understandable one. Patterns of student misbehaviour and teacher stress can form a cycle that is difficult to interrupt (Yoon 2002).
Sadly, these unnecessary stresses lead to a significant loss of skilled and experienced teachers through those choosing to leave the profession (Howard & Johnson, 2004; Mearns & Cain, 2003). Furthermore, around a half to two-thirds of teachers have considered going the job due to stress (Milburn, 2011;).
Teachers report the highest level of occupational stress in Australia, the United Kingdom and America (Milburn, 2011). On top of that, sadly, more than one-in-four Australian teachers suffer from emotional exhaustion after starting their careers and expect to leave the profession within the first five years of teaching (Milburn, 2011).
2. 90% of teachers are too mentally drained after work to look after their health
This result isn’t a surprising one. Teaching is a mentally exhausting job. Teachers have so many things that they can be worrying about throughout the day.
- Planning lessons
- Teaching lessons
- Parent communication
- If students are doing their work at home
- Grading papers
- Every little spot-fire that arises throughout the day
It is no wonder that by the time teachers get home, they are too drained to focus on their health. Furthermore, willpower is a limited resource that exhausts itself throughout the day. So not only are teachers too tired to make the best choices, take-away food and convenience items usually seem a lot more appealing.
3. 75% of teachers do not get as much sleep as they used to
Again, a troubling but unsurprising conclusion was that three-quarters of Australian teachers do not get the required amount of sleep. It has been proven that over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression. In a 2005 Sleep in America poll, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night”.
The health impacts of sleep deprivation don’t limit themselves to the mental aspect. A lack of sleep increases hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity. According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours.
What can you do about it?
The adverse health effects of teaching are disappointing, but not surprising.
However, not all hope is lost, and we are not all destined to be stressed, fat, exhausted, and under-slept (seriously, what a yuck combo). There are many ways which you can use your twenty-four hours every day leave a little time to look after your health.
Mindfulness is a known aid to anyone suffering stress. By practising mindful meditation on a regular basis, you can regulate the pressures you’re facing and learn to focus on the present. The best part? Mindfulness exercises are best done in the classroom with your students.
If you want the best health advice from around the web curated and explicitly prioritised for teachers, then sign up for the free newsletter on teachers’ health.
Sign up for the FREE teachers’ health guide