DOI: 10.3390/ijerph20176698 ISSN:

Impacts of COVID-19 on Stress in Middle School Teachers and Staff in Minnesota: An Exploratory Study Using Random Forest Analysis

Alyson B. Harding, Marizen R. Ramirez, Andrew D. Ryan, Bao Nhia Xiong, Christina E. Rosebush, Briana Woods-Jaeger
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

While the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many occupations, teachers and school staff have faced unique challenges related to remote and hybrid teaching, less contact with students, and general uncertainty. This study aimed to measure the associations between specific impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and stress levels in Minnesota educators. A total of 296 teachers and staff members from eight middle schools completed online surveys between May and July of 2020. The Epidemic Pandemic Impacts Inventory (EPII) measured the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic according to nine domains (i.e., Economic, Home Life). The Kessler-6 scale measured non-specific stress (range: 0–24), with higher scores indicating greater levels of stress. Random forest analysis determined which items of the EPII were predictive of stress. The average Kessler-6 score was 6.8, indicating moderate stress. Three EPII items explained the largest amount of variation in the Kessler-6 score: increase in mental health problems or symptoms, hard time making the transition to working from home, and increase in sleep problems or poor sleep quality. These findings indicate potential areas for intervention to reduce employee stress in the event of future disruptions to in-person teaching or other major transitions during dynamic times.

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