Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Teachers Score Higher Than Other Professionals in Well-Being

In the December 23, 2009 Gallup article "Teachers Score Higher Than Other Professionals in Well-Being," Shane Lopez and Sangeeta Agrawal
report that according to a recent survey "teachers rate their lives higher in four of six well-being indexes."

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A career in teaching might be good for your well-being. While the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index previously revealed that business owners were richer in well-being than other job types, further research isolating teachers from other professionals finds teachers fare as well as or better than business owners in overall well-being.

Gallup typically includes teachers in the "professional worker" occupation category, but asks an additional question --"Are you currently a teacher in a public or private school (at any level, secondary, elementary, college, pre-school)?" -- to distinguish teachers from non-teaching professionals.

An analysis of data collected between July 2008 and June 2009 finds that teachers score highest (or tied for highest) among all 12 job types on how they evaluate their lives, access to resources needed to lead a healthy life, emotional health, and their the likelihood of engaging in healthy behaviors. Overall, the findings reveal numerous benefits and some drawbacks related to the teaching profession.

(Page 2 includes details on how Gallup defines each occupational category.)

Teachers View Their Lives in Positive Terms

The Life Evaluation Index, which is based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, is one of four sub-indexes on which teachers rank first. People are asked to evaluate their present and future lives on a scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10, where 0 is the worst possible life and 10 is the best possible life. Based on their scores, teachers are at the top of the list, expressing far more optimism than all other professions.

Next on the list, non-teaching professionals were nearly seven percentage points lower on this index than their fellow professionals in the education ranks. Business owners lagged 10 points behind teachers. Workers in many other job types had scores more than 15 points below teachers, suggesting that they tend to see their lives much less positively.

Teachers Have What They Need for a Healthy Life

Teachers are also in the top spot, tied with managers/executives/officials and non-teaching professionals, on the Gallup-Healthways Basic Access Index. The Basic Access Index measures access to resources and services needed to lead a healthy life (based on 13 indicators gauging access to food, shelter, healthcare, and a safe and satisfying place to live, among other things).

Clerical/office workers, business owners, and sales workers also report a high degree of access to basic resources. Workers in the farming/fishing/forestry and construction/mining industries rank lowest on this sub-index.

Teachers Share the Top Ranking in Emotional Health

In terms of emotional health, teachers share the top spot with numerous job types including farming/fishing/ forestry workers (who topped the list in a previous analysis), non-teaching professionals, business owners, and managers/executives/officials, all of which have index scores within two points or less of teachers. A high level of emotional health involves positive daily experiences (e.g., smiling or laughter, learning or doing something interesting, being treated with respect), more positive than negative emotions, and no history of depression.

Underscoring the level of positive emotion teachers experience on a daily basis, when surveyed, 87% of teachers said they smiled or laughed a lot yesterday. Sales workers were next in line with 86% reporting smiling or laughing a lot the day before the survey. Manufacturing/production and transportation workers smiled and laughed least often with 82% reporting that they did so a lot yesterday.

Teachers Make Healthy Choices

Teachers also rank near the top on the Healthy Behavior Index, again sharing a comparable score with farm/fishing/forestry workers and business owners; non-teaching professionals follow. The Healthy Behavior Index measures four behaviors strongly linked to health: eating healthy, smoking (scored in reverse), weekly consumption of fruits and vegetables, and weekly exercise frequency. Manufacturing/production, transportation, installation/repair, and sales workers rank lowest on the Healthy Behavior Index.

Teachers Do Not Report the Best Work Environments

Teachers and fellow professionals lag far behind business owners, who hold the top spot on the Work Environment Index. The Work Environment Index asks people if they are satisfied with their jobs, if they get to use their strengths at work, if their supervisor treats them more like a boss or a partner, and if their work environment is open and trusting. Given that conditions in an employee's work environment are directly related to his or her engagement level, the finding may have implications for students and administrators. Teachers who are given the opportunity to do what they do best at work (91% say they get to use their strengths at work) may be more likely to engage students in the learning process.

Business owners, despite working longer hours than people in other job types, report having the best work environments -- likely buoyed by the fact that many business owners are their own supervisors. Farming/fishing/forestry workers have a higher score on the index than teachers, but teachers score higher than people in construction/mining, sales, installation/repair, clerical/office work, service, manufacturing/production, and transportation.

Teachers Are as Physically Healthy as Most Workers in Other Professions

Construction/mining workers, managers/executives/officials, professionals, and business owners lead the way on the Physical Health Index, and teachers along with sales workers and installation/repair workers are close behind. This index includes nine items addressing chronic or daily illnesses, including colds and flu. When asked if they were sick with the flu yesterday, 1.2% of teachers (and business owners) said "yes," whereas the percentage of flu sufferers was as high as 2.9% for individuals in the farming/fishing/forestry industry. Teachers were more likely to report having a cold yesterday (7.0% said "yes" to this item). Service workers were most likely to report having a cold (7.4%), and business owners were the least likely (4.6%).

Bottom Line

Teachers score highly on many aspects of well-being, even when compared with non-teaching professionals and business owners. It is unclear whether the relatively higher scores of teachers on several measures of well-being are because working in that profession enhances one's well-being, or if people who have higher well-being in general seek out teaching professions.

While teachers reap the personal benefits of high well-being, this level of well-being may also prove beneficial to their students and the broader community. At the same time, community leaders and administrators would do well to improve teacher's work environments not only to help boost teacher well-being, but also to boost student and community well-being even higher.

Learn more about the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with adults, aged 18 and older, who are employed in one of the 11 job categories Gallup typically uses to assess occupation. A total of 409,261 interviews were conducted July 1, 2008-June 30, 2009, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. However, because many Americans are not in the workforce and because some Americans work in jobs that do not fit any of these job classifications, the final sample was 179,007.

Each occupational group has at least 3,336 respondents, which means that for most occupations and most indexes the margin of sampling error is always less than ±2 percentage points. However, because farmers and small business owners often could not answer questions about their supervisors, sample sizes for these two groups on the Work Environment Index drop as low as 1,327. The margin of error for this smallest sample size (incorporating the design effect) is ±3 percentage points. Rankings, and ties within rankings, were determined using margins of error.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only). In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index measures the daily pulse of U.S. well-being and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

Job Classifications

Teacher -- Typically included in the professional worker category in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being survey data; people were included in this category (and excluded from the professional category) if they said yes to "Are you currently a teacher in a public or private school (at any level, secondary, elementary, college, pre-school)?"

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being survey uses the following job labels.

Professional worker -- lawyer, doctor, scientist, engineer, nurse, accountant, computer programmer, architect, investment banker, stock brokerage, marketing, musician, artist

Manager, executive, or official -- in a business, government agency, or other organization

Business owner -- such as a store, factory, plumbing contractor, etc. (self-employed)

Clerical or office worker -- in business, government agency, or other type of organization -- such as a typist, secretary, postal clerk, telephone operator, computer operator, data entry, bank clerk, etc.

Sales worker -- clerk in a store, door-to-door salesperson, sales associate, manufacturer's representative, outside salesperson

Service worker -- policeman/woman, fireman, waiter or waitress, maid, nurse's aide, attendant, barber or beautician, fast food, landscaping, janitorial, personal care worker

Construction or mining worker -- construction manager, plumber, carpenter, electrician, other construction trades, miner, or other extraction worker

Manufacturing or production worker -- operates a machine in a factory, is an assembly line worker in a factory, includes non-restaurant food preparation (baker), printer, print shop worker, garment, furniture and all other manufacturing

Transportation worker -- drives a truck, taxi cab, bus, or etc, works with or on aircraft (including pilots and flight attendants), trains, boats, teamster, longshoreman, delivery company worker or driver, moving company worker

Installation or repair worker -- garage mechanic, linesman, other installation, maintenance or repair worker

Farming, fishing, or forestry worker -- farmer, farm worker, aquaculture or hatchery worker, fisherman, deck hand on fishing boat, lumberjack, forest management worker


  1. Cognition comes through comparison. Yes, I we compare teacher work with the work of a farmer the first one is supposed to be less tiring (physically) however farmers work at the open air and it is more healthy. My aunt is a teacher and I see how tired she is at the end of the day moreover she is always stressed because of children and their parents who think that their children are the best. Moreover nowadays this job is not respectable any more as children can insult their educators and after they can be right. What is more annoying teachers have to write a lot of reports throughout the year (here they offer help to get thesis online ) and now this job is not better than in the office.