Teachers’ working time as a risk factor for their mental health - findings from a cross-sectional study at German upper-level secondary schools

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Abstract

Background: The work of teachers has changed due to an increase in the range of tasks. However, there is a lack of current information on working hours, task distribution and the possible health effects. Methods: For the first time for Germany as a whole, a cross-sectional survey determined how long teachers at upper-level secondary schools work per week, what influences their working hours and how different recording methods affect the total working hours. To this end, 6,109 full-time teachers estimated their working hours based on twelve categories and then documented these daily over 4 weeks. Afterwards, the effects of long working hours on teachers' ability to recover and emotional exhaustion were analysed. Results: The article shows the large interindividual variance in the working hours of teachers and a significant influence of sex, age, and subject profile. Self-reported working hours varied substantially by method used to record working time with work time reported via daily diaries totaling 2 h per week more than hours recorded by a single estimation. A substantial proportion of the teachers (36%) work longer per week than European guidelines allow (> 48 h); 15% work even more than 55 h per week. Teachers who work more than 45 h per week suffer more often from inability to recover (46%) and emotional exhaustion (32%) than teachers who work less than 40 h per week (26% and 22% respectively). Conclusions: Taking professional experience and teaching subjects into account could in future contribute to a fairer distribution of workload among teachers. This could protect individual teachers from long working hours, ensure sufficient recovery and also reduce the risk of emotional exhaustion. In order to identify teachers whose health is at risk at an early stage, voluntary preventive care offers would be considerably helpful.

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Kreuzfeld, S., Felsing, C., & Seibt, R. (2022). Teachers’ working time as a risk factor for their mental health - findings from a cross-sectional study at German upper-level secondary schools. BMC Public Health, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-12680-5

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