Our study is one of the first assessing depression, anxiety, and stress in schoolteachers in the Middle East, aiming to assess their relationship with online teaching, fear of covid-19, and financial wellness. Three hundred participants were included in our study.
Teachers between 30 and 39 years old had the highest level of depression, anxiety and stress, which might be due to the higher level of responsibilities during online teaching.
Nearly one third of our sample (34.3%) had severe or extremely severe depression, which reflects the tough situation the teachers in Lebanon are passing through. This value was much higher than that in Nigeria (23.7%), Malaysia (9.9%) and Egypt 0.7% , , . The rate of depression was higher than expected, due to the added effect of Covid19 pandemic, and Lebanon’s economic crisis. A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies regarding mental illness through COVID-19 outbreak showed a high prevalence of depression (28%), which is slightly lower than that found in our sample of teachers , , . Online teaching did not show any significance regarding depression rate.
As predicted, fear of covid-19 showed an increase in depression rate (p value < 0.001), which verifies a study conducted in USA stating that fear disorders were linked to depression . Moreover, financial wellness was negatively correlated with depression, showing higher levels as wellness decreased (p value < 0.001). This coincides with a study that connects financial difficulties to depression . In addition, another study showed that financial stressors due to COVID-19 increased rates of depression . Furthermore, some studies correlated the increase in income to a decreased prevalence of common mood disorders, especially depression , , , .
Around third of the participants (36.6%) had severe or extremely severe anxiety. This value was slightly higher than that of Egypt and Malaysia, being 26.7% and 23.3% respectively , . This rate was nearly double the number measured in China, through the COVID-19 pandemic, which was 13.6% . When compared to the Lebanese population, anxiety in schoolteachers is higher than that in general population, measured before COVID-19, where 25.6% of people showed signs of anxiety disorders . Anxiety was positively correlated with online teaching (p = 0.022). This also reflects the difficulties that face teachers every day. Online education also increased anxiety rates in students, as a study in china showed .Anxiety was also highly correlated with the fear of Covid19 (p < 0.001). Similar result was also reached in a study in China . In addition, financial wellness seemed to be related to higher levels of anxiety, as poor levels of wellness increased anxiety rates (p < 0.001). Other studies showed that low socioeconomic status was considered a significant risk factor for mental illness , .
Regarding stress, 35.5% of schoolteachers showed severe or extremely severe stress, higher than results found in schoolteachers in Malaysia (25%) . On the other hand, this value was lower than that in Egypt, showing 67.6% of teachers having severe stress . A study in China showed that stress has reached high levels due to covid-19 pandemic, which might be a cause for this high level in our population . Stress showed to be directly correlated with online teaching (p = 0.032). A study on students during distance learning showed that around 85% had stress . This common environment for students and teacher may explain the correlation between online teaching and stress. Fear of covid-19 also had a positive association with stress (p < 0.001), as well as worse financial wellness scores (p < 0.001).
Mental health is of extreme importance, as it influences productivity, which is of major concern in teachers’ occupation . Moreover, individuals with severe mental health problems are more prone to suffer from chronic diseases, negatively affecting their lives . Our study showed a significant association between online teaching and higher levels of anxiety and stress. Online educators mostly suffer from compassion fatigue, where caregivers provide so much support, leaving no time to care for themselves. It also emphasized the clear effect of fear of Covid-19 and low financial wellness in causing depression, anxiety, and stress. Based on what preceded, our study shed the light on the mental health of schoolteachers during the pandemic, as online teaching emerged to replace the healthy environment that was once held at schools. It highlights the importance of assessing the struggles that teachers pass through during online teaching, to improve their performance, and prevent greater damage to their psychological wellbeing.
Limitations were mainly related to the cross-sectional design of our study. Sex ratio, governates, distribution, and the number of teachers involved, were not a perfect representation for the Lebanese population of schoolteachers, as larger number is needed to formulate a definitive conclusion. In addition, resorting to an online survey meant excluding individuals inactive on the internet. Furthermore, not having a baseline pre-pandemic DASS-21 for teachers, accurate pre–post analyses could not be conducted. Confounding biases may have occurred, due to the increased numbers of stressors, which might have led to the decline in mental health. Specificity of cause might be lost due to accumulation of stressors.