Effects of Occupation-Specific Vocal Stress on the Mental Health of Day Care Teachers
Introduction: Kindergarten teachers are exposed to numerous kinds of strains, such as noise, which can negatively affect their voices. This cross-sectional study investigates whether and to what extent the profession-specific high vocal demand is associated with the educators’ mental health.
Methods: One hundred and ninety-two kindergarten teachers from Magdeburg, Germany and its surrounding areas aged 43.4 ± 12.8 years, voluntarily participated in a survey. Vocal demand and vocal demand response, general strain factors, and mental health were assessed by using questionnaires (self-check on voice demands, Rudow checklist, General Health Questionnaire, and Maslach Burnout Inventory). The statistical analyses were carried out using SPSS.
Results: The interviewed educators felt stressed by the excessive number of work tasks and children in each class, noisy work environment, and loud conversations. In addition, educators complained of headaches and neck pain (66%), while 28% of them experienced hoarseness and a burning throat. The mental health of 39 of the educators was impaired, and nine were at an increased risk of burnout. Self-reported voice effort correlated low with mental health (r = 0.287; p < 0.001) and burnout risk (r = 0.306; p < 0.001).
Conclusion: The vocal demands on educators in day care settings are very high, which is a major associated factor for the development of burnout syndrome and is also associated with headaches and neck pain. Measures for the prevention of occupational voice disorders and voice training should be a mandatory part of the educators’ training and must be offered as in-service training.
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