Teachers' wellbeing and depressive symptoms, and associated risk factors: A large cross sectional study in English secondary schools

J Affect Disord. 2016 Mar 1;192:76-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.11.054. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


Background: Teachers have been shown to have high levels of stress and common mental disorder, but few studies have examined which factors within the school environment are associated with poor teacher mental health.

Methods: Teachers (n=555) in 8 schools completed self-report questionnaires. Levels of teacher wellbeing (Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale-WEMWBS) and depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-PHQ-9) were measured and associations between these measures and school-related factors were examined using multilevel multivariable regression models.

Results: The mean (SD) teacher wellbeing score (47.2 (8.8)) was lower than reported in working population samples, and 19.4% had evidence of moderate to severe depressive symptoms (PHQ-9 scores >10). Feeling unable to talk to a colleague when feeling stressed or down, dissatisfaction with work and high presenteeism were all strongly associated with both poor wellbeing (beta coefficients ranged from -4.65 [-6.04, -3.28] to -3.39 [-5.48, -1.31]) and depressive symptoms (ORs ranged from 2.44 [1.41, 4.19] to 3.31 [1.70, 6.45]). Stress at work and recent change in school governance were also associated with poor wellbeing (beta coefficients=-4.22 [-5.95, -2.48] and -2.17 [-3.58, -0.77] respectively), while sickness absence and low student attendance were associated with depressive symptoms (ORs=2.14 [1.24, 3.67] and 1.93 [1.06, 6.45] respectively).

Limitations: i) This was a cross-sectional study; causal associations cannot be identified ii) several of the measures were self-report iii) the small number of schools reduced study power for the school-level variables

Conclusions: Wellbeing is low and depressive symptoms high amongst teachers. Interventions aimed at improving their mental health might focus on reducing work related stress, and increasing the support available to them.

Keywords: Depression; Mental health; School; Teachers; Wellbeing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Faculty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology
  • Occupational Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • Workplace / psychology