issue briefTeacher Stress and HealthEffects on Teachers, Students, and SchoolsImage: iStock monkeybusinessimagesThis issue brief, created by the Pennsylvania State University with support from theRobert Wood Johnson Foundation, is one of a series of briefs addressing the need forresearch, practice, and policy on social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL is definedas the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply theknowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, setand achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintainpositive relationships, and make responsible decisions.Learn more at The Pennsylvania State University 2017 September 2016

issue briefExecutive SummaryTeachers play a critical role in shaping the lives of ournation’s children. Teachers not only facilitate learning, butalso influence a child’s social and emotional development.Today, teaching is one of the most stressful occupationsin the U.S. High levels of stress are affecting teacherhealth and well-being, causing teacher burnout, lack ofengagement, job dissatisfaction, poor performance, andsome of the highest turnover rates ever.Stress not only has negative consequences for teachers, italso results in lower achievement for students and highercosts for schools. A New York City study showed higherteacher turnover led to lower fourth and fifth grade studentachievement in both math and language arts. The cost ofteacher turnover is estimated to be over 7 billion per year.46% of teachers report high daily stress duringthe school year.* That’s tied with nurses for thehighest rate among all occupational groups.* Gallup (2014). State of American Schools. Retrieved from a-schools-report.aspx.3. Individual Interventions – An approach that teachesindividuals practices to manage stress.Several programs and policies are proven to help teachersreduce stress, improve well-being and student outcomes,and even save schools money. These include:llThere are four main sources of teacher stress.llllllllSchool Organizations that lack strong principalleadership, a healthy school climate and a collegial,supportive environment;Job Demands that are escalating with high-stakes testing,student behavioral problems, and difficult parents;llllWork Resources that limit a teacher’s sense ofautonomy and decision-making power; andTeacher Social and Emotional Competence to managestress and nurture a healthy classroom.Interventions to help reduce teacher stress fall into threebroad categories:1. Organizational Interventions – An approach thatfocuses on changing the organization’s culture toprevent stress from occurring;2. Organization-Individual Interface Interventions– An approach that includes building workplacerelationships and support;2 The Pennsylvania State University 2017 September 2016llMentoring and induction programs for beginningteachers can improve teacher satisfaction andretention, as well as student academic achievement.(Organization-Individual Interface)Workplace wellness programs have resulted inreduced health risk, health care costs, and absenteeismamong teachers. (Organization-Individual Interface)Social emotional learning (SEL) programs thatimprove behavior and promote SEL among studentsalso help reduce teacher stress and create morepositive engagement with students. (OrganizationIndividual Interface)Mindfulness/stress management programs can helpteachers develop coping and awareness skills to reduceanxiety, depression, and improved health. (Individual)Still, much more needs to be done to reduce the currentteacher crisis, particularly on an organizational level. Basicresearch is needed on additional ways to reduce teacherstress and support teacher health and wellness, in order toprevent the negative consequences that impact teachers,students, parents, communities, and school systems.

issue briefIntroductionTeachers play an important role in the lives of children. In addition to facilitatinglearning, teachers are key agents of socialization, helping students reach theirhighest potential1 and develop into responsible citizens. But, over the past years,teaching has become increasingly stressful.Today, teaching is one of the most stressful occupations in the U.S. Teacherstress impacts teacher health and well-being, work attitudes (e.g. jobsatisfaction), and turnover. Teacher stress is linked to teaching performanceand student academic outcomes. High stress levels are causing teachers toleave their profession, which causes instability among staff, students, and thecommunity. In response, schools and districts are hiring newer teachers withless experience, resulting in lower student achievement and significant trainingcosts for our nation’s school systems.Image: iStock Christopher FutcherThis research brief examines the sources and effects of teacher stress,highlights programs and policies that can reduce teacher stress and improveteacher well-being and performance, and recommends next generationresearch, real-world policies, and systematic, sustainable practices that canbuild and sustain a culture of health for teachers in U.S. schools.Key FindingsThere Are Four Main Sources of Teacher StressSchool Organization: Leadership, Climate and CultureA supportive school culture, strong principal leadership and a collaborative,collegial environment are associated with higher job satisfaction among teachersand intentions of novice teachers to continue teaching.3,4 High teacher trustin both their colleagues and leadership is related to lower stress and burnout.Unsatisfactory relationships with administrators, colleagues, or students mayincrease teacher stress,5 lower job satisfaction,6 and lower commitment tostudents.7 There is also a relationship between teacher turnover and principalturnover. Frequent principal turnover results in lower teacher retention rates.Leadership changes are particularly harmful for high poverty schools, lowachieving schools, and schools with many inexperienced teachers.8Job DemandsContinued high demands on the job are a key predictor of teacher stress.Increased use of high-stakes testing at the state and district levels may beexacerbating this problem by limiting teachers’ control over the content andpace of their own work, and increasing threats of teacher termination and school3 The Pennsylvania State University 2017 September 2016What Is Job Stress?Job stress can be definedas the harmful physical andemotional responses thatoccur when the requirementsof the job do not match thecapabilities, resources, orneeds of the worker. Jobstress can lead to poor healthincluding psychological andphysiological symptoms(such as depression, anxiety,poor sleep patterns, etc.) andeven injury.2

issue briefclosure.9 Managing students with behavior problems and working with difficult parents aretwo other demanding interpersonal challenges that produce chronic stress and leave teachersmore vulnerable to depression.Work Resources: Support and Autonomy in Decision-MakingWhen school leaders create opportunities for decision-making and collaboration amongteachers, teachers feel empowered and have higher satisfaction.10 Among professionaloccupations, teachers rate lowest in feeling that their opinions count at work.11 Thepercentage of teachers who report low job autonomy has increased from 18 percent in 2004to 26 percent in 2012.12 Retaining high quality teachers means ensuring they have a voice inschool-level decisions, and not subjecting them to unrealistic expectations. In addition, coworker support and job control are key issues. Greater job control has been found to reducethe impact of stress on health in teachers.13Teachers’ Personal Resources and Social-Emotional CompetenceWhen high job demands and stress are combined with low social-emotional competence(SEC) and classroom management skills, poor teacher performance and attrition increase.14A teacher’s own SEC and well-being are key factors influencing student and classroomoutcomes.15 Yet, few teachers have had training opportunities to attend to and developtheir own SEC. If a teacher is unable to manage their stress adequately, their instruction willsuffer, which then impacts student well-being and achievement. In contrast, teachers withCauses and Consequences of Teacher StressFEDERAL, STATE, DISTRICT, SCHOOL POLICIESSOURCES OF TEACHER STRESSSchool OrganizationJob DemandsWork ResourcesSocial–Emotional CompetenceSTRESSTEACHER CONSEQUENCESLow PerformanceIll Health and Lack of Well-beingIncreased AbsenteeismHigh Turnover4 The Pennsylvania State University 2017 September 2016OTHER CONSEQUENCESLower Student AchievementLower Continuity for Students & ParentsHigher Educational Costs

issue briefbetter emotion regulation are likely to reinforce positive student behavior, andsupport students in managing their own negative emotions.16,17 Teachers withhigh SEC also report more positive affect, greater principal support, higherjob satisfaction, and a sense of personal accomplishment.18Teacher Stress Has Many Negative ConsequencesTeacher stress—now at an all-time high—affects teachers’physical health.The majority of teachers report feeling under great stress at least several daysa week, a significant increase from 1985.19 According to a national survey, 46percent of teachers report high daily stress during the school year.20 This is thehighest rate of daily stress among all occupational groups, tied with nurses, alsoat 46 percent, and higher than physicians, at 45 percent. Less than one-thirdof K-12 teachers report currently feeling engaged in their job and engagementdrops significantly during the first few years of teaching. Lack of engagementmay be associated with low retention rates among new teachers.21Teachers’ psychological stress also affects their physical health. In a study ofhigh school teachers, 46 percent of teachers were diagnosed with excessivedaytime sleepiness and 51 percent with poor sleep quality, compromising health,quality of life, and teaching performance.22 Chronic work stress and exhaustionamong teachers is associated with negative changes in biological indicatorsof stress23 and chronically stressed teachers show atypical daily patterns ofphysiological stress reactivity (cortisol).24,25Teacher stress is linked to poor teacher performance andpoor student outcomes.According to a longitudinal study, elementary school teachers who havegreater stress and show more symptoms of depression create classroomenvironments that are less conducive to learning, which leads to pooracademic performance among students. Students who began the school yearwith weaker math skills and had a teacher with more depressive symptomshad the lowest rate of achievement.26 Teachers who report greater burnoutearly in the school year have classrooms with more behavior problems.When teachers are highly stressed, children show lower levels of both socialadjustment and academic performance.27 Most strikingly, a survey of over78,000 students in grades 5-12 in 160 schools showed that higher teacherengagement in their jobs predicted higher student engagement, which in turnpredicted higher student achievement outcomes.28,29Teacher turnover leads to instability and lower effectivenessin U.S. schools.Between 1988 and 2008, 41 percent of teachers left the profession. Whilethis number includes teachers who retired, research estimates that between23 percent and 42 percent of teachers stop teaching within their first fiveyears.30,31,32 Reasons cited for leaving include job dissatisfaction related to poorworking conditions, low salary, and student behavior problems, as well as lack5 The Pennsylvania State University 2017 September 2016Elementary school teacherswho have greater stress andshow more symptoms ofdepression create classroomenvironments that are lessconducive to learning.

issue briefof classroom resources, input to school-wide decision making, and supportiveschool leadership.33 This high teacher turnover leads to even more negativeconsequences within our educational system:High Teacher Turnover:Hurts student scoresllllllStudent achievement declines. In a study of New York City fourth- andfifth-grade students, higher teacher turnover had a significant negative effecton both math and language arts achievement. Turnover was particularlyharmful to lower-performing students.34 In contrast, research shows thatadditional years of teaching experience at the same grade level has a directpositive impact on student achievement.35Turnover hurts students’ math andlanguage arts scores, particularly forlower-performing students.U.S. schools lose more than 7 billion each year. There is a substantial lossof investments made in training new teachers when nearly half leave withinfive years. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Futureestimates that public school teacher turnover costs more than 7.3 billion peryear.36 The cost per teacher is estimated from over 4,000 in rural areas toover 17,000 in urban districts.Inequity in education access is increased. Because turnover is most likelyto occur in poorly performing schools, it leads to long-term destabilizationof low-income neighborhood schools which lose continuity in relationshipsbetween teachers, students, parents and community.37Policies and Programs Show Promise for ReducingTeacher Stress and Its ConsequencesDisrupts relationshipsbetween schools andcommunitiesThe findings above support the need to reduce stress and improve teacherwell-being and performance. There are three broad types of interventionapproaches: 1) Organizational Interventions; 2) Organization-IndividualInterface Interventions; and 3) Individual Interventions. The following areprograms or policies that have shown promise in reducing teacher stressand promoting their social-emotional competencies, well-being, healthand performance.Turnover happens most in poorlyperforming schools, leading todestabilization of low-incomeneighborhood schools.Organizational InterventionsOrganizational interventions are directed at changing the organization’s cultureand work practices. They involve promoting a participatory environment,open communication, supervisor/peer support, job redesign (e.g. reducingworkload), training, worker health policies, etc.38 The goal of an organizationalintervention is to prevent stress from occurring, which is considered to bemore effective than individual interventions alone. There is some evidenceto support organizational-level interventions in other service professions,with documented benefits in reducing stress, increasing job satisfaction andreducing turnover.396 The Pennsylvania State University 2017 September 2016Costs schools 7.3 billioneach yearRapid turnover costs over 4,000 peryear in rural areas and over 17,000per year in urban districts.

issue briefAlthough many initiatives, including teacher union collective bargainingagreements, legislation, and worksite labor-management health and safetycommittees, have been initiated, there is no research to demonstrate theireffectiveness in improving teacher well-being and performance.Programs that Help RelieveTeacher StressOrganization-Individual Interface InterventionsllSchool Workplace Wellness Promotion Programs and Policies Can SaveSchools Money and Help Improve Teachers’ Health. One systems-wideapproach to addressing teacher health and well-being is the implementationof workplace wellness programs. Such programs target lifestyle changesto reduce health risk behaviors and costs. Data shows that the percentageof schools with health promotion practices has increased between 2000and 2014, including a twofold increase in offerings focused on health riskappraisals (21.2% in 2014), nutrition (31.4% in 2014), and weight management(30.4% in 2014), and a 10% increase in physical activity programs (50% in2014). Notably, only 26 percent of schools offered stress managementservices, a decline of 10 percent since 2000.52There is early evidence of the benefits of workplace wellness programs inschools. In one school district a workplace wellness program, initiated in2011-12, incorporated administrative planning, behavior change campaigns,and insurance incentives (e.g., lower co-pay and deductibles). Over half of7 The Pennsylvania State University 2017 September 2016Image: iStock Cathy YeuletResearch to date shows that teachers who had a mentor in their subject area,had common planning time in their subject area and grade level, and hadregular communications with their principal had better retention rates.44,45,46More comprehensive, and longer, induction supports were even moreadvantageous,47,48 and may be particularly effective in retaining teachersin high-need districts.49,50 At present, only three states require schools toprovide induction supports to new teachers for more than one year, requireteachers to complete an induction program for professional licensure, andprovide dedicated state induction funding.51Mindfulness programs can help teachersmanage emotions and find joy in teaching.Mentoring programs can help new teachersreduce stress and raise retention whichimproves classroom instruction.Image: iStock Steve DebenportTeacher Induction and Mentoring Programs Can Help Teachers andStudents Succeed. Given the high rate of teacher attrition in the first yearsof teaching, programs that seek to provide technical and social support tobeginning teachers through orientation, guidance, and mentoring programshave proliferated.40,41,42 Common activities include mentoring from teachersin the same subject area, regular opportunities for supportive communicationwith administrators, seminars and workshops, time management, andteam building. A review of well-designed induction studies concluded thatsupports for beginning teachers led to: (i) higher satisfaction, commitment, orretention, (ii) better classroom instructional practices, and (iii) higher studentscores on academic achievement tests.43Workplace wellness programs can improveteacher health, lower medical costs, andreduce absenteeism.Image: iStock PeopleImagesllImage: iStock kali9This approach typically focuses on building co-worker social support and skillstraining for teachers and students. There are three proven programs that fallinto this category.Social and emotional learning programsfor students can reduce teacher burnout andincrease their satisfaction

issue briefemployees participated, and among those who did, 46.0 percent had loweredbody mass index, 34.7 percent lowered systolic blood pressure, 65.6 percentlowered blood glucose, and 38.6 percent lowered total cholesterol.53 A costanalysis over two additional years found average medical claims paymentswere lower for teachers in the wellness program. The cost savings from theprogram was 3,612,402, or a savings of 3.60 for every dollar spent.54 Anotherstudy of a district-wide wellness program found no differences betweenparticipants and nonparticipants in health care costs, but program participationled to lower absenteeism, resulting in savings of 15.60 for each dollar spent.55The Benefits of WorkplaceWellness Programs in Schools 3.60 is the cost savings from everydollar spent on wellness programsllPrograms Focused on Student Behavior and Social and EmotionalLearning (SEL) Benefit Teachers and Support Classroom Learning. Whileprograms to improve student behavior and student SEL have yielded positiveoutcomes for students,56 evidence suggests they may also improve teacherfunctioning. In a randomized control trial (RCT) of 350 K-5 teachers across27 urban schools, teachers trained to implement a classroom managementprogram with an SEL curriculum reported greater efficacy for managingstudent behavior and higher levels of personal accomplishment comparedto teachers in control schools.57 These findings support other studiesshowing that teachers trained and supported in implementing SEL programshave lower job-related anxiety and depression,58 higher quality classroominteractions with students,59,60 greater teacher engagement,61 and greaterperceived job control.62Teachers in schools implementing multi-tiered approaches such as schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) also reportedlower levels of job-related burnout and higher efficacy.63 Teachers receivingcoaching focused on improving the quality of their interactions with studentshave led to a significant increase in student achievement,64 suggesting thatsystematic and sustained coaching supports may be a critical component ofSEL interventions for teachers.Individual InterventionsInterventions at the individual level are the most common approaches todeal with stress. Such interventions may include psychological relaxation ormeditation, cognitive behavioral approaches to improve active coping skills,and goal-setting.llTeachers Who Participate in Stress Management Programs ReportMental and Physical Health Benefits. Mindfulness and stress managementbased professional development programs foster teachers’ ability to focustheir awareness in the present moment in a non-reactive manner, connectingto their own experience and to others with ease, patience, and kindness.68,69,70Skills are taught using sequenced exercises such as body scans, breathawareness, meditative movement, greater emotional awareness, and thecultivation of positive emotions towards self and others. Well-designedstudies have shown psychological and physiological benefits as well asimprovements in quality of teaching.71,728 The Pennsylvania State University 2017 September 2016Among wellness programparticipants:46% reduced body mass index34.7% lowered systolic blood pressure65.6% lowered blood glucose38.6% lowered total cholesterolWhat Is Mindfulness?Mindfulness is a state ofactive, open attentionto the present moment.Being mindful meansobserving one’s thoughtsand feelings from a distance,without judging them asgood or bad.65,66 It has beenrelated to reducing teacherburnout, negative affect,sleep-related impairment,and daily physicalsymptoms.67

issue briefIn the largest study to date, 224 K-5 teachers from 36 urban public schools were randomlyassigned to mindfulness training or control. Those who received mindfulness trainingshowed improved levels of mindfulness and emotion regulation skills and lower levels ofpersonal distress.73 They also showed significant improvements in their observed instruction.Other studies with the same or similar intervention models have shown positive effects onoccupational stress and burnout,74,75 and in a study of special needs teachers, mindfulnesstraining led to lower stress and anxiety and greater personal growth, empathy, andforgiveness.76 Although few studies have assessed teachers’ physiological changes, findingssuggest mindfulness practices can lead to reductions in physiological stress, including lowerlevels of cortisol and blood pressure,77,78,79 and positive effects on sleep quality.80,81,82Future Research NeedsThere is a need for greater innovation in developing and assessing the effectiveness ofpolicies and programs to reduce teacher stress and improve well-being. In particular, thereis a need for further testing of the efficacy of organizational strategies to improve “workprocesses” such as reducing excessive work demands, increasing job control, creating morecollaborative leadership, and building more effective school cultures.While supporting teacher mindfulness and stress management is one avenue, teacherwork demands are high and have been increasing, and policy and organizational levelinterventions need to address this issue.83 The impacts of teacher stress are particularly highin disadvantaged schools, making it a fundamental issue for reducing inequity in education.Basic research on teacher health and wellness is needed and should include the useof objective measures of teacher’s stress and time use.84 In addition, there is a need toexamine the consequences of teacher stress for teacher health care costs.Conclusion and ImplicationsThere is an urgent need to address our nation’s teacher crisis. Teachers have a critical rolein children’s lives and teaching has become one of the most stressful occupations, withalarmingly high rates of job dissatisfaction and turnover. This escalating crisis is affectingstudents’ educational outcomes, impacting teachers’ health, and costing U.S. schoolsbillions of dollars each year.9 The Pennsylvania State University 2017 September 2016

issue briefThere are several main factors that contribute to teacher stress.llllllllSchool Organization. Principal leadership, particularly in creating a collegial,supportive school environment, can support teacher engagement andeffectiveness. The levels of teacher stress are in turn affected by schooldistrict, state, and federal policies that may support or detract from creating ahealthy school environment and effective teacher functioning.Job Demands. Surprisingly, most teacher education and professionaldevelopment programs currently do not prepare teachers for these kinds ofjob demands.85Work Resources. Currently, many teachers have a limited sense ofautonomy and decision-making power.Social and Emotional Competence. Finally, few teachers are offeredprofessional development to nurture their own social and emotionalcompetence.Fortunately, some policies and programs have proven effective in supportingteachers’ well-being, improving student outcomes, and even saving schoolsmoney. These include:llllllllMentoring and induction programs for beginning teachers, can improveteacher satisfaction and retention, as well as student academic achievement.Workplace wellness programs have resulted in reduced health risk, healthcare costs, and absenteeism among teachers. Policymakers should considerthe Total Worker Health approach advanced by the National Institute ofOccupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, CDC). This holistic approachcombines policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection fromwork-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury preventionand lifestyle promotion efforts to advance teacher well-being.86SEL programs improve behavior and promote SEL among students, whichalso helps to reduce teacher stress and create more positive engagementwith students.Mindfulness/stress management programs that help teachers developcoping and awareness skills and lead to reduced anxiety, depression, andimproved health.10 The Pennsylvania State University 2017 September 2016Authors/AffiliationsMark Greenberg, Ph.D., is the BennettEndowed Chair in Prevention Research,founding director of the Edna Bennett PiercePrevention Research Center for the Promotionof Human Development, and professor ofHuman Development and Psychology, Collegeof Health and Human Development at thePennsylvania State University; Joshua L. Brown,Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of AppliedDevelopmental Psychology in the Departmentof Psychology at Fordham University; RachelAbenavoli is a Kligman Fellow and graduateresearch assistant. The authors gratefullyacknowledge Teresa McIntyre, Ph.D. andScott McIntyre, Ph.D. of the University ofHouston for their helpful comments on anearlier version of this brief.Suggested CitationGreenberg, M. T., Brown J. L., Abenavoli, R.M.(2016). “Teacher Stress and Health Effectson Teachers, Students, and Schools.” EdnaBennett Pierce Prevention Research Center,Pennsylvania State University.About the Robert Wood JohnsonFoundationFor more than 40 years the Robert WoodJohnson Foundation has worked to improvehealth and health care. We are working withothers to build a national Culture of Healthenabling everyone in America to live longer,healthier lives. For more information, Follow the Foundation onTwitter at or on Facebookat Pennsylvania State UniversityFounded in 1855, the Pennsylvania StateUniversity is a renowned public researchuniversity that educates students from aroundthe world and collaborates with partners toshare valuable knowledge that improves thehealth and well-being of individuals, familiesand communities. For more information,

issue brief1Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8: Deepening and Broadeningthe Foundation for Success, Board on Children, Youth and Families, L. Allen andB.B. Kelly (Eds.) (2015). Transforming the workforce for children birth through age8: A unifying foundation. Institute of Medicine and National Research Council ofthe National Academies).30 Ingersoll, R., Merrill, L. & Stuckey, D. (2014) Seven trends: the transformation ofthe teaching force. CPRE Report (#RR 80). Consortium for Policy Research inEducation, University of Pennsylvania.31 Raue, K., & Gray, L. (2015, September). Career Paths of Beginning Public SchoolTeachers: Results From the First Through Fifth Waves of the 2007—08 BeginningTeacher Longitudinal Study, Stats in Brief. NCES 2015-196. U.S. Department ofEducation.2CDC/NIOSH DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 99-101.3Johnson, S. M., Kraft, M. A., & Papay, J. P. (2012). How context matters in high-needschools: The effects of teachers’ working conditions on their professionalsatisfaction and their students’ achievement. Teachers College Record, 114, 1–39.4Kapadia, K., Coca, V., & Easton, J.Q. (2007). Keeping new teachers: A first look atthe influences of induction in the Chicago Public Schools. Chicago: Consortiumon Chicago School Research, Univ. of Chicago.5Kyriacou, C. (2001), “Teacher stress: directions for future research”, EducationalReview, 53, 27-35.35 Huang, F. L. & Moon, T. R. (2009). Is experience the best teacher? EducationalAssessment Evaluation and Accountability, 21, 209-234.6Van Maele, D. and Van Houtte, M. (2012), The role of teacher and faculty trustin forming teachers’ job satisfaction: do years

Teacher Stress and Health Effects on Teachers, Students, and Schools This issue brief, created by the Pennsylvania State University with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is one of a series of briefs addressing the need for research, practice, and poli