Effort–Reward Imbalance and Mental Health Problems in 1074 German Teachers, Compared with Those in the General Population

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Abstract

High degrees of premature retirement among teachers warrant investigating the occupational burden and the mental health status of this profession.

A sample of 1074 German teachers participated in this study. Two samples of the general population (N = 824 and N = 792) were used as comparison groups. Work distress was assessed with the Effort–Reward-Imbalance questionnaire, and mental health problems were measured with the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12).

Teachers reported more effort–reward imbalance (M = 0.64) compared with the general population (M = 0.57), and they perceived more mental health problems (GHQ: M = 12.1) than the comparison group (M = 9.5). School type was not associated with work stress and mental health. Teachers with leading functions perceived high degrees of effort and reward, resulting in a moderate effort–reward ratio and no heightened mental health problems. Teachers working full time reported more effort than teachers working part time, but the reward mean values of both groups were similar. This results in a somewhat unfavourable effort–reward ratio of teachers working full time. Moreover, teachers working full time reported more mental health problems.

The results support the appropriateness of the effort–reward conception, applied to the profession of teachers. The higher degree of effort–reward imbalance and the level of mental health problems warrant preventive measures. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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