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STRESS AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS

PREVALENCE AND FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH


STRESS AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS IN
KOTA BHARU, KELANTAN, MALAYSIA
Azlihanis Abdul Hadi1, Nyi Nyi Naing2, Aziah Daud1, Rusli Nordin1,3 and
Mohd Rahim Sulong1

1
Department of Community Medicine, School of Medical Sciences;
2
Unit of Biostatistics and Research Methodology, School of Medical Sciences;
3
School of Dental Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Health Campus, Kubang Kerian,
Kelantan, Malaysia

Abstract. The teaching profession is an occupation at high risk for stress. This research
attempted to determine the prevalence of stress and the associated factors contribut-
ing to stress among teachers in Malaysia. A cross-sectional study was conducted on
580 secondary school teachers in Kota Bharu District. The instrument used to carry
out the study was adopted and modified from the Depression, Anxiety and Stress
Scale (DASS 21) and Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ). The questionnaire consisted of
two parts: Part I consisting non-job factors (socio-demographic characteristics) and
Part II consisting of psychosocial factors contributing to stress. Simple and multiple
linear regression analysis were carried out. The prevalence of stress was reported as
34.0%. Seventeen point four percent of teachers experienced mild stress. Age, dura-
tion of work and psychological job demands were significantly associated with stress
level. This study indicates job-related factors did not contribute much to stress among
secondary school teachers. Non-job-related factors should be further studied to deter-
mine methods for stress reduction in teachers in Malaysia.

INTRODUCTION Kyriacou, 2001; Hanizah, 2003). Social, cul-


tural, economic and educational differences
Teacher stress is defined as experiences between countries mean that one must be
in teachers of unpleasant, negative emotions, cautious in applying research carried out in
such as anger, frustration, anxiety, depres- one country to another country. It is impor-
sion and nervousness, resulting from some tant for research regarding teacher stress to
aspect of their work as teachers (Kyriacou, be carried out in individual countries, where
2001). The amount of research on teacher local circumstances can be taken into account
stress has increased steadily, and has now in the design of the study.
become a major research topic in many coun-
The teaching profession has been cat-
tries (Vandenberghe and Huberman, 1999;
egorized as an occupation at high risk for
Correspondence: Naing Nyi Nyi, Biostatistics stress (Chan and Hui, 1995; Pithers and
and Research Methodology Unit, School of Medi- Forgaty, 1995). The Health and Safety Execu-
cal Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Health tive (2000a) in the United Kingdom reported
Campus, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia. that teaching was the most stressful occu-
E-mail: nyi@kb.usm.my pation, compared to other occupations, such

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as nursing, managing, professional and com- burnout. Burnout is described as the inabil-
munity service occupations. It was also re- ity to perform both functionally and effec-
ported that two out of five teachers in the tively in employment settings due to exten-
United Kingdom experienced stress, com- sive exposure to job-related stress (Dorman,
pared to one in five workers from other oc- 2003). The aim of this study was to explore
cupations. stress among teachers in secondary schools
Okebukola and Jegede (1989) devel- in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia. The re-
oped a questionnaire in order to study fac- searchers sought to determine the preva-
tors related to occupational stress among lence of teacher stress and its associated fac-
teachers in Nigeria. They found five main tors.
factors related to stress: student factors,
teacher factors, the school working environ- MATERIALS AND METHODS
ment, administrative procedures and service
conditions. Female teachers were more in- Subjects
fluenced by the school environment and ad- A cross-sectional study was conducted
ministrative procedures than male teachers. in 20 secondary schools under the authority
Those who were not married found student of the Kota Bharu District Education Office,
factors caused greater levels of stress than Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia. A simple
in those who were married. random sampling technique was applied to
Borg et al (1991) produced a question- select study subjects. All subjects were re-
naire to investigate occupational stress cruited at the school office after given writ-
among teachers. They found the major ten consent. Self-administered question-
causes of stress were problems of student naires were distributed to 580 teachers. The
attitudes, problem with time and resource teachers were asked to reform the question-
management, lack of professional recogni- naire three days later. The returned question-
tion and interpersonal relationships. Boyle naires were checked on site to assure com-
et al (1995) validated these dimensions in or- pleteness.
der to form one model of factors associated The study protocol was approved by the
with occupational stress; they found Research and Ethics Committee, School of
workload was another factor besides the Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia
above four. in January, 2005.
Studies carried out in Malaysia identi- Job Content Questionnaire
fied several factors contributing to stress The Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ)
among teachers, such as use of information was based on the Karasek’s Demand-Con-
technology (Hanizah, 2003), years of expe- trol Model and was used to determine the
rience in teaching (Mokhtar, 1998), the work- psychosocial factors contributing to stress.
ing environment and feelings of responsibil- The JCQ has four sections: the first was to
ity (Ismail, 1998); the school type and per- assess for psychosocial strain; the second
ceptions of inadequate school facilities was assessing psychological and physical
(Chan, 1998). strain; the third was to evaluate technology
Teachers are at increased risk for burn- and the fourth was to assess wages and
out. Measuring teacher stress is important hours. All questionnaires were scored on a
and can play an important role in under- Likert scale of 1 to 4 (strongly disagree, dis-
standing the processes that lead to teacher agree, agree and strongly agree). In this

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study, job factors investigated were psycho- ments of both researchers and scientists (pro-
logical job demand, decision latitude (skill fessional clinicians). The use of the DASS
discretion, decision authority), supervisor questionnaire as an objective measure of
support, coworker support, job insecurity, health indicator (depression, anxiety and
physical exertion and hazardous conditions. stress) in combination with the JCQ show
All the job factors were from section one of the direct effect of job stress on the health
the JCQ. problem as recommended by Harmy (2001).
Reliability and construct validity of the The DASS is not meant for clinical di-
Malay version of the questionnaire was done agnosis according to discrete diagnostic cat-
among secondary school teachers in Kota egories postulated in classificatory systems,
Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia. A total of 68 teach- such as the DSM and ICD. This is because
ers consented to participate in the study. Data the DASS is based on a dimensional rather
regarding their responses were collected us- than a categorical conception of psychologi-
ing a Malay version of the JCQ. Reliability cal disorders. A key strength of the DASS is
was determined using Cronbach’s alpha for its ability to assess depression, anxiety and
internal consistency whilst construct validity stress in a brief and psychometrically sound
was assessed using factor analysis. The manner (Brown et al, 1996).
Cronbach’s alpha coefficients revealed de- Even though the DASS 42 gives a more
cision latitude of 0.75, psychological job de- reliable score and more information about
mand of 0.50 and social support of 0.84. Fac- specific symptoms, the DASS 21 has the ad-
tor analysis showed three meaningful com- vantage of taking only half the time to ad-
mon factors that could explain the construct minister. There are several published stud-
of the Karasek’s demand-control-social sup- ies showing that the DASS 21 has the same
port model. The study demonstrated the factor structures and gives results similar
three scales of the JCQ were reliable and to the DASS 42 (Antony et al, 1998; Henry
valid for assessing the psychosocial work and Crawford, 2005). The DASS 42 is pref-
conditions of secondary school teachers, al- erable for clinical work and the DASS 21 is
though further studies are needed to im- often used for research purposes.
prove the psychological job demand scale All questions were scored on a Likert
(Azlihanis et al, 2006). scale of 0 to 3, “Did not apply to me at all”,
Depression Anxiety and Stress 21 Items “applied to me to some degree or some of
Questionnaire the time”, “applied to me to a considerable
degree or a good part of time”, “applied to
Stress level was measured using the
me very much or most of the time”. Subjects
Depression Anxiety and Stress 21 Items
were asked to answer to question based on
Questionnaire (DASS 21). It is a shorter ver-
their experiences over the past week.
sion of the DASS 42. DASS questionnaire is
Scores for stress was calculated by sum-
a set of three self reported scales designed
ming the scores for the item using the DASS
to measure the negative emotional states of
21 answer template. The severity rating for
depression, anxiety and stress. The DASS
stress depended on the score: normal, mild,
was developed by Lovibond and Lovibond
moderate, severe and extremely severe,
(1995) which has been increasingly used in
stress.
diverse settings. The DASS questionnaire
measures negative emotional states based on Data analysis
clinical symptoms and meets the require- Data analysis was done using the Sta-

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SOUTHEAST ASIAN J TROP MED PUBLIC HEALTH

tistical Program for Social Science (SPSS) ver- manual backward elimination was carried
sion 12.0 for Windows. For job factors, such out to get only the variables with a signifi-
as decision latitude, skill discretion, decision cant association with the outcome. Before
authority, psychological job demand, super- obtaining the preliminary main effect model,
visor support, co-worker support, physical manual forward inclusion was carried out,
exertion, hazardous conditions and job in- whereby all the previously excluded vari-
security, these were calculated using the for- ables were tested one by one to ensure that
mulae of the Job Content Instrument. no significant variables were left out before
The data was first analyzed using de- model refinement was done.
scriptive statistic to give an overview of the For fine modeling, all two-way-interac-
distribution of the data. For socio-demo- tion terms of independent variables chosen
graphic characteristics, job characteristics in the preliminary main effect model were
and prevalence of stress, means and stan- checked. Multicollinearity was checked with
dard deviations were used to describe nor- the variables in the preliminary main effect
mally distributed continuous variables and model and with all the other excluded vari-
medians and inter-quartile ranges for non- ables to ensure that they were not excluded
normally distributed continuous variables. due to multicollinearity problems with other
Frequencies and percentages were used for variables. A serious multicollinearity prob-
categorical variables. lem was assumed present if the variance in-
Associations between stress score and flation factor (VIF) was equal to or greater
job factors were analyzed using multiple lin- than ten, which required remedial action.
ear regressions analysis. Before proceeding Before abtaining the final model, as-
to multiple linear regression (MLR), scatter sumptions, overall model fitness, functional
plots between outcome variables (stress forms of variables and outliers were
score) and numerical independent variables checked. Unstandardized predicted values
were plotted to find any associations. On (linear prediction) and standardized residu-
univariable analysis, simple linear regres- als (error terms) were calculated using soft-
sion (SLR) was used for the numerical and ware from the fitted model. Normality as-
categorical independent variables. Categori- sumption was checked by plotting a histo-
cal variables with small cells, which were not gram of standardized residuals and check-
significant at the univariate level, were col- ing the normality of the histogram distri-
lapsed and the small cells were combined bution. A scatter plot of standardized re-
where clinically meaningful and reanalyzed siduals on the y-axis and unstandardized
using SLR. predicted values on the x-axis was made to
For MLR analysis, to obtain the prelimi- check for linearity and equal variance as-
nary main effect model, variable selection sumptions. Linearity was assumed if the
was done using an automatic forward and error terms (standardized residuals) ap-
backward stepwise procedure. The model peared randomly scattered on both sides of
with the variables chosen from those two and along the zero line. This also reflected
procedures were rechecked with only the se- a good overall fitness of the model. Equal
lected variables because in the stepwise pro- variance assumption was satisfied if the
cedure, only subjects with full data were ana- variance of the error terms (dispersion from
lyzed and subjects with incomplete data or the zero line) appeared to be constant along
missing values were excluded. After that, the unstandardized predicted value.

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STRESS AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS

A scatter plot of the standardized re- t-statistics with degrees of freedom, their cor-
siduals on the y-axis and the numerical responding p-values and overall R2 values.
independent variables on the x-axis was
made to check the appropriateness of the RESULTS
functional forms of the variables. A scatter
plot of the standardized residuals on the A total of 580 teachers participated in
y-axis and the numerical independent vari- the study. Six hundred sixty-five completed
ables not in the model on the x-axis was also the questionnaires giving a response rate of
made to check for any relationship with out- 97.4%. Those who did not completely fill out
come variables. the questionnaire (n=15) were those who did
After the assumptions and fitness were not respond to the question about income.
satisfied, the result was the best fit model, Table 1 describes the demographic char-
which without interaction, an interpretation acteristics of the study population. The mean
of the model was obtained. Results were pre- age was 40.5 years (SD=6.41) with 404 female
sented with crude and adjusted regression teachers (69.7%). Five hundred forty (93.1%)
coefficients, 95% confidence intervals (CI), teachers were Malay, 544 were married

Table 1
Socio-demographic characteristics of 580 secondary school teachers in Kota Bharu.

Variable Mean (SD) Median (IQR) n (%)

Age (years) 40.5 (6.41)


Gender
Male 176 (30.3)
Female 404 (69.7)
Race
Malay 540 (93.1)
Chinese 36 (6.2)
Indian 2 (0.3)
Siamese 2 (0.3)
Marital status
Married 544 (93.8)
Single/Divorce 36 (6.2)
Educational status
SPM/STPM 13 (2.3)
Diploma 29 (5.0)
Bachelor degree 506 (87.2)
Master’ s degree 32 (5.5)
aHousehold Income (RM) 2,736.4 (831.6)
Duration of work (years) 11.0 (7.0,16.0)
Number of children 4 (2)
Smoking status
Yes 38 (6.6)
No 542 (93.4)
a 15 teachers did not respond on the question of household income

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Table 2 Three hundred seventy-five (64.7%) teach-


Job characteristics of 580 secondary ers taught in urban schools and 351 (60.5%)
school teachers in Kota Bharu, Malaysia. of them were members of a teachers’ union.
The mean number of classes taught by the
Variable Mean (SD) n (%)
teachers was 4.7 (SD=1.6).
Type of school The number of teachers who had mild
Urban 375 (64.7) to extremely severe stress levels was 197,
Rural 205 (35.3) giving a prevalence of stress among second-
Committee member
ary school teachers of 34.0% (30.1, 37.8). One
Yes 351 (60.5)
hundred one teachers (17.4%) had a mild
No 229 (39.5)
level of stress (Table 3).
Number of classes 4.7 (1.6)
Skill discretion 35.4 (3.6) Simple linear regression analysis of 8
Decision authority 14.4 (2.4) socio-demographic characteristics and 10 job
Decision latitude 49.8 (4.1) characteristics in the 580 secondary school
Psychological job demand 33.7 (4.2) teachers showed psychological job demand
Job insecurity 5.2 (1.9) (p=0.037) was significantly associated with
Coworker support 12.3 (1.3) stress. Multiple linear regression analysis
Supervisor support 11.7 (2.2)
showed age (p=0.002), work duration
Social support 23.9 (2.8)
(p=0.002) and psychological job demands
Physical exertion 2.8 (0.7)
(p=0.027) were significantly associated with
Hazardous conditions 0.9 (1.5)
stress (Table 4).
The regression coefficient (b) was ap-
Table 3 plied to predict stress scores using multiple
Prevalence of stress among 580 secondary linear regression equation y = a + bx; y = b0
school teachers in Kota Bharu, Malaysia. + b1x1 + b2x2 + ... + bnxn where the regression
coefficient (b) is the variation in value of the
Stress level n (%) outcome (y) when independent variable (x)
Normal 383 (66.0)
is increased by one unit. Using the regres-
Mild 101 (17.4) sion equation resulting from linear regres-
Moderate 47 (8.1) sion analysis, “b” was used in interpreting
Severe 29 (5.1) the effect of independent “x” on outcome
Extremely severe 20 (3.4) “y”.
Total 580 (100.0) For the age variable, one teacher 10
years older than another teacher would have
a higher level of stress by 4 points. This ex-
(93.8%). Five hundred six (87.2%) had a de- plains why b = 0.39 (95% CI -0.65-0.14)
gree level of education and 542 (93.4%) meaning a teacher who is one year old will
teachers did not smoke. The median dura- have a 0.39 points increase in stress. There-
tion of work was 11.0 years. The mean house- fore, a teacher who is 10 years older (10 . 0.39
hold income and number of children were = 3.9 ~ 4.0), will have stress score 4 points
RM 2,736.4 (SD=RM 831.6) and 4 (SD=2), higher.
respectively. Similarly, a teacher with 10 years greater
Table 2 shows the job characteristics of work experience had a higher level of stress
the secondary school teachers in Kota Bharu. by 3.8 points (One year more experience has

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Table 4
Job and non-job factors associated with stress among 580 secondary school teachers in Kota Bharu, Malaysia.

SLRa MLRb
Independent variable
bc (95% CI) t Stat. (df) p-value bd (95% CI) t Stat. p-value

Age -0.055 (0.163, 0.053) -1.00 (578) 0.317 -0.398 (-0.651, -0.145) -3.09 0.002
Gender 1.125 (-0.373, 2.623) 1.48 (578) 0.141
Marital status 2.558 (-0.294, 5.410) 1.76 (578) 0.079

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Educational status 0.387 (-4.274, 5.048) 0.16 (578) 0.871
Household income <0.001 (-0.001, 0.001) -0.61 (578) 0.540
Duration of work 0.016 (-0.088, 0.120) 0.30 (578) 0.760 0.378 (0.134, 0.622) 3.04 0.002
Number of children 0.118 (-0.211, 0.448) 0.70 (578) 0.481
Smoking status 0.487 (-2.301, 3.275) 0.34 (578) 0.732
Type of school 0.712 (-0.731, 2.154) 0.97 (578) 0.333
Committee member -0.586 (-1.997, 0.825) -0.82 (578) 0.415
Number of classes 0.152 (-0.292, 0.596) 0.67 (578) 0.502
Decision latitude -0.094 (-0.264, 0.076) -1.09 (578) 0.276
Psychological job demand (PJD) 0.174 (0.010, 0.337) 2.09 (578) 0.037 0.184 (0.021, 0.346) 2.22 0.027
Job insecurity (JI) 0.312 (-0.053, 0.677) 1.68 (578) 0.094
Coworker support -0.167 (-0.690, 0.356) -0.63 (578) 0.531
Supervisor support <0.001 (-0.318, 0.318) 0.00 (578) 0.999
Physical exertion -0.252 (-1.257, 0.753) -0.49 (578) 0.623
STRESS AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS

Hazardous condition 0.171 (-0.291, 0.634) 0.73 (578) 0.467


a Simple linear regression
b Multiple linear regression (The model reasonably fits; model assumptions were met; there were no multicollinearity problem or interactions
between independent variables)
c Crude regression coefficient
d Adjusted regression coefficient

R2 = 0.03

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SOUTHEAST ASIAN J TROP MED PUBLIC HEALTH

b = 0.38 (95% CI 0.13-0.62). Therefore, a were teaching, nursing, management, pro-


teacher with 10 years more experience had fessionals, other education, welfare, road
a higher stress level by 3.8 points. A teacher transport and security. At least one in five
with a score 10 points higher in psychologi- reported high levels of stress. The teachers
cal job demand, had higher stress level by who reported high levels of stress were two
1.8 points. One point higher in psychologi- in five (Health and Safety Executive, 2000b).
cal job demand, b = 0.18 (95% CI 0.02 - 0.35) Emotional health among secondary
resulted 1.8 points higher in stress levels). school teachers in Kota Bharu is worrisome.
On the linear regression model, age, This problem should be addressed in order
years of work experience and psychological to maintain the integrity of educational,
demand explained 3% variation in stress which is important in developing a produc-
level (R2=0.03). The rest of the 97% variation tive and educated nation.
in stress score was explained by other vari- The level of job stress is expected to cor-
ables which were not in the final model. respond closely to the country’s economic
development. Higher job stress is observed
DISCUSSION in subjects from countries with a lower de-
gree of economic development, such as in
The prevalence of stress ranging from Kota Bharu, more so than in other states.
mild to extremely severe, was 34.0% (95% Apart from methodological differences from
CI 30.1, 37.8) in secondary school teachers other studies, the lower levels of stress may
in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia. How- be explained by a tendency of Malay people
ever, the majority of teachers had a mild level to overlook their psychological problems.
of stress (17.4%).
In this study, younger teachers had
These findings show the teaching pro- more stress than the older teachers. This
fession is mildly stressful. These findings are finding corresponds with a study by Noor
similar to a study by Mokhtar (1998) of sec- Suhaida (2002) of secondary school teachers
ondary school teachers in one of the districts in Terengganu and Selangor. She found
in Kedah, Malaysia. He reported 17.5% had teachers between the age of 31 and 40 years
high levels, 66% moderate levels and 16.5% old had high stress levels. At this age, the
mild levels of stress. subjects may have other requirements to ful-
Hanizah (2003) studied the levels of fill, such as family life and financial needs.
stress among secondary school teachers and In a survey of English teachers in Brit-
found the prevalence of stress among teach- ish Columbia (BCTF, 2001) respondents were
ers was 55.7%. The high prevalence was due asked whether they experienced stress and
to the working environment of the teachers, how effectively they were able to cope with
where all the teachers were using informa- these symptoms. When asked about “Loss
tion technology whereas our study was of of Time for Family or Friends”, almost 89%
government-aided teachers. Noor Suhaida of teachers in their 20s and 30s said “Yes”
(2002) found the level of stress among rural while about 82% of teachers in their 50s an-
and urban secondary school teachers was swered “Yes” and 73% of teachers in their
mild. 60s answered “Yes”. When asked about the
A report of occupational stress in the “Loss of Personal Interest or Hobby Time”,
year 2000 found the occupations in the almost 90% of subjects in their 20s and 30s
United Kingdom with high stress (in order) answered “Yes” compared to 10% fewer

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STRESS AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS

teachers in their 50s or 60s. It appeares clear workload. There is an increasing demand for
that the youngest teachers fare worse in work to be completed within a limited time,
terms of stress and its impact. therefore, time constraints are a major fac-
Antoniou et al (2006) found that tor contributing to stress among teachers.
younger and older teachers perceived stress Nor Salmi (2002) found “not enough time to
at work differently. Younger teachers expe- finish up the syllabus”, especially in those
rienced higher levels of burnout, specifically who taught exam classes, was one impor-
in terms of emotional exhaustion and dis- tant factor causing stress among teachers.
engagement from the profession, while older NSW/ACT IEU (2002) conducted re-
teachers experienced higher levels of stress search projects into workloads and percep-
in terms of the support they feel they re- tions of occupational stress among teachers
ceived from the government. employed in Catholic and Independent
Contrary to the findings of the BCTF schools in Victoria and New South Wales
(2001) where less-experienced, younger (NSW), Australia, respectively. The study
teachers reported both more stress and lesser showed there were four major areas per-
ability to cope with it than their older and ceived to be of particular concern as stres-
more experienced colleagues, our study sors: workload pressures, demands of pro-
found more experienced teachers were fessionalism, communications/management
worse at coping with stress. and career prospects. Regarding workload
pressure, 85.1% of Victorian and 91.9% of the
Teachers with more experience are often
NSW teacher subjects recorded either “high”
selected to become “expert teachers” (Federal
or “moderate” levels of stress deriving from
Congregation of School Inspectors, 1995),
the multiplicity of tasks to be performed by
meaning they are chosen by the ministry to
the teacher given the time constraints; 75.9%
be an expert in certain subjects. They become
of the Victoria and 86.2% of the NSW sub-
a referral teacher for that particular subject
jects reported “high” or “moderate” stress
both for students and other teachers. Expert
levels ensuing from the constancy of the
teachers give out their opinions, determine
work effort.
the strengths and weaknesses of the educa-
In our study, the R2 for stress analysis
tion system, give training to other colleagues
was low. This means job factors do not con-
and become consultants in the subjects they
tribute much to stress among secondary
teach. The multiple roles played by expert
school teachers. Other non-job related fac-
teachers can lead to high levels of stress.
tors, such as personal, social, health, tech-
However, Shafee (2002) found teachers nology and financial factors, which were not
who were in service for more than 5 years covered in this study, might be the main con-
were highly satisfied (in relation with task, tributory factors towards stress levels among
colleagues, supervision and teaching envi- the teachers in our study.
ronment). This is because of developing a
Personal factors, such as the emotions
good long relationship between the teacher
of the teachers, can be reasons for having
and his or her colleagues and adapting to
stress among teachers. Teachers in Hong
the educational curriculum.
Kong have found teaching to be more and
In this study, the psychological job de- more stressful and suggest job stress has
mands were significantly associated with eroded their sense of excitement in pursu-
stress level. Rozihaya (1998) revealed a sig- ing a teaching career. Some reported having
nificant relationship between stress and feelings of being emotionally drained, had

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SOUTHEAST ASIAN J TROP MED PUBLIC HEALTH

expressed negative attitudes in responding the subjects’ emotional health than the ob-
to students, and did not value their own jective characteristics. This shows that job
achievements (Chan, 2006). factors did not contribute much to stress
Our study has some limitations. First, among secondary school teachers.
the cross-sectional nature of this study lim- Other non-job related factors, such as
its our capacity to demonstrate a cause ef- personal, social, technology and financial
fect relationship between individual and oc- factors which were not covered in this study,
cupational variables and stress level. Second, should be looked into, in order to determine
we did not take into account all the charac- the main contributory factors towards stress
teristics of the working environment that level among secondary school teachers.
could have introduced a source of potential The findings of this study provide in-
bias (especially working hours, subjects formation regarding the magnitude of the
taught and working position). Third, the problem among secondary school teachers
study was performed with participants from in Kota Bharu. They point toward a need to
a single occupation rather than evaluating further explore the underlying reasons or
and comparing various occupational groups. factors leading to stress. This suggests pos-
School teachers generally have similar re- sible weaknesses in our existing teaching ser-
sponsibilities. This means differences in job vices as well as measures that improve them.
demands and job control are more a reflec- A number of the results of the present
tion of individual perception of the work study are important for the potential they
situation than in studies where persons from have in terms of public health and policy
different occupations are included. A reason implications, especially because some easy
for taking this approach is that professions to implement measures to change conditions
differing in social status, physical activity or behavior at work could help improve
and other factors may influence stress level. some of the problems identified. Better in-
The results can not be generalized to other formation for teachers and adjusting their
populations. DASS is not meant for diagno- training could improve teacher behavior,
sis according to discrete diagnostic catego- which could have an impact on the occur-
ries postulated in classificatory systems, rence of emotional health problems, such as
such as the DSM IV and ICD 10. DASS is stress. Evaluation of some areas, such as
based on a dimensional rather than a cat- adopting new teaching strategies, official
egorical concept of a psychological disorder. hours of duty and levels of extra-curricular
However, they evaluate the same entity with involvement, could provide a better regula-
different methods of measurement. tory framework within which education staff
The average stress level among second- would be able to find solutions to some of
ary school teachers in Kota Bharu was mild. their problems. Other interventions, such as
However, based on the overall prevalence stress management, can be carried out to
of stress, it still poses a risk to teachers’ improve the workplace. Intervention regard-
health and well being. The factors signifi- ing non-job factors (eg, counseling) should
cantly associated with stress were age, du- not be left out since these were the major
ration of work and psychological job de- cause of stress in teachers in our study.
mands. This study only evaluated the level of
The subjective characteristics related to stress among secondary school teachers. It
working conditions had more influence on would be helpful to compare primary and

1368 Vol 40 No. 6 November 2009


STRESS AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS

secondary school teachers to determine version of the Job Content Questionnaire


which group has more psychological stress. (JCQ) among secondary school teachers in
Other factors may also affect the emotional Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia. Southeast
health status of teachers. We recommend Asian J Trop Med Public Health 2006; 37: 1254-
59.
other factors be considered, such as person-
ality and technology use, in order to get a Borg MG, Riding RJ, Falzon JM. Stress in teach-
true picture of factors associated with the ing: a study of occupational stress and its
determinants among primary school teach-
emotional health of teachers. Most critical is
ers. Br J Educ Psychol 1991; 11: 59-75.
the need for prospective investigations to
evaluate causality. Boyle GJ, Borg MG, Falzon JM, Baglioni AJ. A
structural model of the dimensions of
In our study, the R2 for stress analysis teacher stress. Br J Educ Psychol 1995; 65: 49-
was low, thus job factors did not contribute 67.
much to stress among secondary school
British Columbia Teacher Federation (BCTF).
teachers. Other factors, such as personal, so- Teacher workload and stress: an international
cial, technological and financial factors perspective on human costs and systemic
which were not being covered in this study, failure. Research Report 2001; Section III,
should be looked into more deeply in order WLC-01. [Cited 2006 Jan 24]. Available from:
to obtain the main contributory factors to- URL: http://www.bctf.ca/ResearchReports /
wards stress among teachers. 2001wlc01/report.html
Brown TA, Chorpita BF, Korotitscw K, Barlow
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS DH. Psychometric properties of the Depres-
sion Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) in clini-
The authors wish to thank Professor cal samples. Behav Res Ther 1996; 35: 79-89.
Robert A Karasek for the use of the Job Con-
Chan DW. Emotional intelligence and compo-
tent Questionnaire in this study. The authors
nents of burnout among Chinese secondary
also wish to thank the Ministry of Educa-
school teachers in Hong Kong. Teaching
tion and the principals, senior assistants and Teacher Educ 2006; 22: 1042-54.
teachers of the several secondary schools
Chan DW, Hui EKP. Burnout and coping among
who gave their full commitment to making
Chinese secondary school teachers in Hong
this study possible. Kong. Br J Educ Psychol 1995; 65: 15-25.
Dorman, J. Testing a model for teacher burnout.
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