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J Sch Health. 2012 Jul;82(7):336-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2012.00707.x.

Work-related violence, lifestyle, and health among special education teachers working in Finnish basic education.

Author information

1
Unit of Expertise for Work and Organizations, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland. jenni.ervasti@ttl.fi

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Studies have reported higher levels of absenteeism due to illness among special education teachers compared to other teachers, but it is not known which factors might contribute to this difference. We examined whether health, health behaviors, and exposure to violence at work differed between special education and general education teachers in Finnish basic education.

METHODS:

Survey data from 5760 general and special education teachers were analyzed with multilevel logistic models adjusted for individual- and school-level confounding factors.

RESULTS:

No difference was found between the health behaviors of general and special education teachers. The differences in physical and mental health between the two groups were also relatively small. With regard to work-related violence, however, male special education teachers were 3 times more likely to be exposed to mental abuse, and 5 times more likely to be exposed to physical violence when compared to their male colleagues in general education. Although female special educators were also at an increased risk of mental abuse and physical violence compared to their female general teacher colleagues, their odds ratios for such an encounter were smaller (2- and 3-fold, respectively) than those of male special education teachers. The school-level variance of physical violence toward teachers was large, which indicates that while most schools have little physical violence toward teachers, schools do exist in which teachers' exposure to violence is common.

CONCLUSIONS:

These findings suggest that special education teachers may benefit from training for handling violent situations and interventions to prevent violence at schools.

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