Education News – Profs more stressed than general population, study shows

OTTAWA (CUP) — Canadian university faculty experience a higher-than-normal level of work-related stress, according to a study from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

Inspired by similar studies in Australia and the U.K., it is the first of its kind in Canada to fill the void in quantifiable knowledge related to occupational stress in academia.

?There had been a lot of anecdotal evidence that university faculty were experiencing lots of stress in relation to their work,? said James Turk, executive director of CAUT, but there was no data on the trend.

Turk said he often hears of colleagues taking stress leave, or having trouble coping with the changing demands of their jobs.

The study, which measured participant perception, suggests ?stress in academia exceeds that found in the general population.? Professors and librarians from 56 universities across the country took part in the survey.

The group of 1,500 men and women were asked to fill out an online questionnaire rating seven stress factors, including work-life balance, workload, and fairness in the workplace.

For 85 per cent of staff surveyed, workload was a source of elevated stress. The next most common stressor, at 82 per cent, was role conflict. A professor who teaches, advises students, and conducts research would feel this kind of pressure when trying to juggle their duties.

Finding a balance between work and personal lives stressed 76 per cent of academic staff, according to the study. This number was higher for women, who came in at 80 per cent, eight points higher than their male counterparts. Faculty members in tenure-track positions felt the most stress.

?Publish or perish has intensified,? said Turk. The pressure to produce papers, he added, falls especially hard on those who are trying to further their careers. Increased stress in the workplace can also lead to health-related side effects.

?Over time, high work-related stress can lead to related illnesses, such as heart disease and depression,? said Ted Haines of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster University.

Haines, along with scientists at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, began the study on behalf of CAUT in 2005.

One in five professors and librarians reported heavy physical symptoms of stress, including anxiety, frustration, memory lapses and an inability to make decisions. Psychologically, 13 per cent of people exhibited ?signs of distress.?

Turk hopes that the study will force universities to acknowledge that stress is on the rise in their employees and to do something about it.

Despite the high levels of stress, though, two-thirds of librarians and professors were happy with their jobs. The more seniority and job security respondents had, the higher their level of contentment.

Sixty per cent of respondents also felt emotionally attached to their institutions.

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