Occupational stress in teaching concerns not only teachers; it also impacts on wider social contexts. It may negatively affect teachers’ health, but also indirectly influence students’ health and their academic achievements. Yet, despite the challenges teacher stress and health problems pose for society, little research has examined and compared the relevance of different psychosocial work characteristics in predicting poor teacher health, or explored mechanisms that explain or moderate these associations in the teaching profession. This thesis examined the associations between different psychosocial work characteristics and health-related outcomes among Finnish teachers, as well as the potential explanatory (i.e., mediating) and moderating mechanisms for these associations. The data were gathered via self-report questionnaires and included a cross-sectional sample of primary school teachers from the Helsinki metropolitan area of Finland and a longitudinal sample of teachers in primary or secondary education from the prospective Finnish Public Sector study. Psychosocial work characteristics involved job strain, effort-reward imbalance, organizational injustice, and teacher-targeted violence. The health-related outcomes potentially associated with psychosocial work characteristics included depressive symptoms, burnout, and sleep problems. In addition, the extent to which different aspects of recovery explained the associations and the moderating role of organizational justice were examined. Psychosocial work characteristics in terms of effort-reward imbalance and, to a lesser extent, with regard to job strain, were found to be relevant predictors of poor health in teaching. Effort-reward imbalance was associated with higher levels of burnout and, compared with job strain and organizational injustice, this was the most important predictor of depressive symptoms. Job strain was associated particularly with impaired sleep. Although organizational injustice did not seem to be a major predictor of poor health, high organizational justice represented a valuable resource in the teachers’ psychosocial work environment. Encountering violence at work had the most pronounced effect on sleep among teachers working in relatively unjust conditions, whereas the sleep of those perceiving high organizational justice was not affected by violence. Some of the effects of psychosocial work characteristics on health were mediated through aspects of recovery; namely, through sleep and recovery experiences during leisure time. Non-restorative sleep partially explained both the association of job strain with depressive symptoms and the association of effort-reward imbalance with depressive symptoms and overall burnout score. Furthermore, the association between effort-reward imbalance and burnout was partially mediated through poor relaxation during leisure time. The indirect effects were relatively weak, suggesting that although poor recovery may partly mediate the association between psychosocial work characteristics and health-related outcomes in teaching, it does not play a major role in the process. For teachers in basic education, reducing the demanding aspects of the psychosocial work environment and increasing the rewarding elements, such as the respect and support they receive, may be important in occupational stress prevention. Furthermore, although preventive measures against teacher-targeted violence should be prioritized, resources aimed at promoting organizational justice in schools may also mitigate the adverse consequences of teacher victimization. Although improving teachers’ psychosocial work environment is probably the most important means of supporting their health, interventions that help teachers unwind after working hours and reduce sleep problems may further complement workplace development programs.
|Place of Publication||Helsinki|
|Publication status||Published - 2017|
|MoE publication type||G5 Doctoral dissertation (article)|
Fields of Science
- 515 Psychology
- 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
- 3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health