This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of

Hutchison SM, De-Jongh González O, Watts A, Oberle E, Gadermann A, Goldfarb DM, Oberlander TF, Lavoie PM, Mâsse LC. Anxiety symptoms, psychological distress, and optimism in school staff: Testing associations with stressors and coping during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. J Affect Disord Reports. 2023 Oct 6. doi:

The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.

A CITF-funded study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders Reports, found that school staff who felt they were at higher risk of getting COVID-19 reported higher anxiety symptoms. Female school staff who perceived they had a higher risk of getting COVID-19 experienced higher levels of psychological distress and had lower levels of optimism. This study was led by Drs. Pascal Lavoie and Louise C Mâsse (University of British Columbia).

Key findings:

  • Female school staff overall reported higher levels of anxiety symptoms compared to male staff, although both groups reported similar levels of psychological distress and optimism.
  • Both male and female school staff with poorer mental health outcomes (higher anxiety, higher psychological distress, and/or lower optimism) were more likely to: have a greater perceived risk of getting COVID-19, be younger, and/or have a lower education level.
  • Among females who perceived they had a low familial risk of COVID-19, living with others reduced the negative effect of pandemic stressors on mental health outcomes as it was associated with lower anxiety symptoms and greater optimism.
  • Although female school staff with moderate or serious levels of psychological distress were more likely to report unhealthy behaviours, female staff whose coping responses included favorable health behaviours (being physically active and limiting unhealthy eating habits and alcohol intake) had lower anxiety and psychological distress. Overall, health behaviours did not influence associations between stressors and mental health.

This study highlights the critical impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of school staff, with differences between males and females, and the need for ongoing proactive prevention and intervention strategies to address the well-being of school staff.

This study included 2,343 school staff (teachers, teacher librarians, resource teachers, student support workers, administrators, and youth and family workers among others) from the greater Vancouver area in British Columbia, Canada. The participants completed an online questionnaire between February 3 and June 18, 2021 as part of a longitudinal “Tracking COVID-19 for Safer Schools” study looking at the impact of COVID-19 on schools.