Is teachers' mental health and wellbeing associated with students' mental health and wellbeing?

Sarah Harding, Richard Morris, David Gunnell, Tamsin Ford, William Hollingworth, Kate Tilling, Rhiannon Evans, Sarah Bell, Jillian Grey, Rowan Brockman, Rona Campbell, Ricardo Araya, Simon Murphy, Judi Kidger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Factors within the school environment may impact young people's mental health and wellbeing. The aim of this study was to understand the association between teacher and student mental health and wellbeing. Further, it seeked to identify possible explanations by examining whether the strength of any association is weakened once quality of teacher-student relationships, teacher presenteeism and absence are considered. Methods: Cross-sectional data were collected from 3216 year 8 (aged 12–13 years) students and from 1182 teachers in 25 secondary schools in England and Wales. The association between teacher wellbeing (measured by Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS)) with student wellbeing (WEMWBS) and with student psychological distress (Total Difficulties Score (TDS)) was assessed using Random Effects Mixed Models. Analyses were repeated using teacher depression (measured by Patient Health Questionnaire) as the explanatory variable. Results: Better teacher wellbeing was associated with i) better student wellbeing (standardised effect = 0·07, 95% CI = 0·02 to 0·12) and ii) lower student psychological distress (standardised effect = −0·10, 95% CI = −0·16 to −0·04). Teacher presenteeism and the quality of the teacher-student relationship appeared to be on the pathway of these relationships. Higher levels of teacher depressive symptoms were associated with poorer student wellbeing and psychological distress (standardised effect = −0·06, 95% CI = −0·11 to −0·01 & 0·09, 95% CI = 0·03 to 0·15). This association did not withstand adjustment for teacher presenteeism. Limitations: Cross sectional in design so unable to establish temporal associations. Conclusions: Associations were found between teacher wellbeing and student wellbeing and psychological distress. There were also an association between teacher depression and student wellbeing. Both may be partially explained by teacher presenteeism and quality of teacher-student relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-187
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date17 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


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