Relationships between social climate and indoor environmental quality and frequently reported health symptoms among teachers and staff in a suburban school district

Sheena E. Martenies, Jennifer Schill, Matthew Klimm, Jennifer E. Cross, Shannon Oliver, Sheryl Magzamen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Public school teachers represent one of the largest occupational groups in the United States and are vulnerable to job stress and burnout. School social and physical environments may be adversely impacting the health of teachers and other staff, though few studies have explored these relationships. We partnered with a suburban school district in Colorado to assess the association between school environmental quality, social climate, and staff member health. We modeled the number of self-reported frequent health symptoms (experienced at least once a week) using generalized linear models. School-level predictors of interest included: overall social climate scores (unitless), building operations report card (ORC) scores (unitless), and indoor air quality (IAQ) scores (unitless). In total, we had data from 134 staff members from 11 schools in the district. A majority (62%) of our participants were teachers, who reported a greater number of frequent (i.e., at least once a week) health symptoms (mean = 3.2 symptoms experienced at least once per week) compared to staff in other roles (mean = 2.3 symptoms per week). We found that a one standard-deviation (10.5) increase in the overall social climate score was associated with a 0.77-fold (95% CI: 0.60–0.99) change in the number of frequent health symptoms reported. However, this association was attenuated among teachers compared to other staff members. Our results suggested effect modification by social climate on the relationship between IAQ and health, albeit with some uncertainty. For participants with a school climate score below the mean, a one standard-deviation (10.5) increase in IAQ score was associated with a 0.49-fold (95% CI: 0.35–0.70) change in the number of frequently reported symptoms. Overall, our study suggests school climate may be associated with self-reported health symptoms, but that the benefits of improved school climates may not be as strong for teachers compared to other staff. Future work should assess perceived climate at the individual level to assess how staff roles impact how school environments are associated with health outcomes.

Keywords

  • Environmental quality
  • indoor air quality
  • school health
  • social climate
  • teacher health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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