Teachers are among the happiest professionals

The well-being and mental health of teachers in England is similar to those in other professions, according to new Nuffield-funded research from academics at the UCL Institute of Education.

The paper looked at data from more than 60,000 teachers in England collected over the last decade. The study, which is the first to compare the well-being of such a large number of teachers to other professional groups, found that teachers had similar levels of anxiety, unhappiness and life satisfaction to other professional groups.

Overall, the study found that 22% of secondary and 20% of primary teachers were unhappy, compared to figures of 21% and 23% for demographically similar individuals working in other professional jobs. Relatively few primary (5%) and secondary (7%) teachers had low levels of self-worth, compared to around 11% for other professional workers.

Headteachers were found to be happier, have higher levels of life-satisfaction and were more likely to feel that their life is worthwhile than other occupational groups.

Co-author of the study, Professor John Jerrim from the UCL Social Research Institute added: “A myth seems to have emerged that teachers have worse mental health and lower levels of well-being than other groups. Our study provides clear, comprehensive evidence that this simply isn’t true. On the whole, teachers have similar levels of well-being to other professional employees.”

Dr Sam Sims, co-author from the UCL Centre of Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO) added: “We should be encouraging graduates into the teaching profession, and not lead them to believe becoming a teacher is bad for your mental health. Like all jobs, teaching has its challenges – but not the excessively bad picture we sometimes hear about.”

Of the other professional groups included in the study, authors and writers, graphic designers, journalists and solicitors were found to be amongst the most anxious and with the lowest levels of reported self-worth.

On the other hand, accountants, IT professionals and Human Resources (HR) workers were amongst the happiest, least anxious and with high levels of life satisfaction.

The researchers note that the data they used in the analysis was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK. It is not yet known at a detailed level how this has affected the well-being of different occupational groups.

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