Transcendental Meditation

New study on teacher stress and burnout

teacher burnout stress study

The Permanente Journal is a peer-reviewed journal of medical science, social science in medicine, and medical humanities.

A new study published in The Permanente Journal (Winter 2014) showed the introduction of the Transcendental Meditation technique substantially decreases teacher stress and burnout.

Teacher burnout – a pervasive problem

Research indicates that stress and burnout are pervasive problems among employees, with teachers being especially vulnerable to feeling frequent stress from their jobs.

Burnout, a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and job dissatisfaction, has been found to contribute to lower teacher classroom performance and higher absenteeism and job turnover rates.

According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, the teacher turnover rate in the US has risen to 16.8 percent recently. In urban schools it is over 20 percent, and, in some schools and districts, the teacher dropout rate is actually higher than the student dropout rate… The problem is especially acute for young teachers at the beginning of their career – 46% of all new teachers in the United States leave the profession within five years.

Results of the study

The present study, published in the peer-reviewed Permanente Journal, sought to determine whether the practice of the Transcendental Meditation program results in lower psychological distress and decreased burnout in teachers and support staff.

decreased teacher burnout with meditation

The average level of change in total burnout, as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory, in the Transcendental Meditation group (blue column) compared to controls (red column). Graph: MUM

The research was conducted at the Bennington School in Vermont, a special in-residence school for students with behavioral problems. The study included 40 teachers and support staff measured at baseline and then randomly assigned to either immediate start of the TM program or delayed start (wait-list control group).

The results indicated that Transcendental Meditation was effective already at four-month follow-up. Significant reductions were found in the TM group compared with controls for all of the main outcome variables: perceived stress, depressive symptoms, and teacher burnout. Medium to large effect sizes were observed, with the largest effect on perceived stress.

What the researchers say

charles elder teacher burnout meditation“The results of this randomized controlled trial are very striking and demonstrate the utility of introducing a stress reduction program for teachers and other public and private employees. The four-month study found significant and clinically important decreases in perceived stress, emotional exhaustion associated with teacher burnout, and depressive symptoms in those practicing the Transcendental Meditation compared to a wait-list control group.” Dr. Charles Elder, MD, MPH, lead author of the study

Sanford-Nidich teacher stress and burnout“Burnout and other psychological distress factors have been linked to negative health behaviors, obesity, and hypertension, all of which are major contributors to cardiovascular disease. Prior medical research has found that practice of the Transcendental Meditation program is effective in reducing both risk factors for heart disease and cardiovascular events. Taken as a whole, this present study and prior research provide evidence for the value of the TM program for enhancing mental and physical health and well-being.”  Dr. Sanford Nidich, EdD, co-author of the study

This is the first study to investigate the effects of Transcendental Meditation on teacher burnout. Recent published studies have shown a positive impact of this program on student graduation rates, academic achievement, and psychological distress. Transcendental Meditation has seen widespread implementation in secondary schools across the country within the context of school-wide Quiet Time programs.

This research project was funded by the Nine East Network and the David Lynch Foundation.

Academic reference:
Elder, Charles; Nidich, Sanford; Moriarty, Francis; Nidich, Randi. “Effect of Transcendental Meditation on employee stress, depression, and burnout: A randomized controlled study”. The Permanente Journal, 2014 Winter, Vol 18 (1), pages 19-23.

Read the study online