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Open Access Research article

Voice disorders and mental health in teachers: a cross-sectional nationwide study

Eléna Nerrière1, Marie-Noël Vercambre1*, Fabien Gilbert1 and Viviane Kovess-Masféty12

Author Affiliations

1 Foundation for Public Health, MGEN, Paris, France

2 EA4069, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:370  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-370

Published: 2 October 2009

Abstract

Background

Teachers, as professional voice users, are at particular risk of voice disorders. Among contributing factors, stress and psychological tension could play a role but epidemiological data on this problem are scarce. The aim of this study was to evaluate prevalence and cofactors of voice disorders among teachers in the French National Education system, with particular attention paid to the association between voice complaint and psychological status.

Methods

The source data come from an epidemiological postal survey on physical and mental health conducted in a sample of 20,099 adults (in activity or retired) selected at random from the health plan records of the national education system. Overall response rate was 53%. Of the 10,288 respondents, 3,940 were teachers in activity currently giving classes to students. In the sample of those with complete data (n = 3,646), variables associated with voice disorders were investigated using logistic regression models. Studied variables referred to demographic characteristics, socio-professional environment, psychological distress, mental health disorders (DSM-IV), and sick leave.

Results

One in two female teachers reported voice disorders (50.0%) compared to one in four males (26.0%). Those who reported voice disorders presented higher level of psychological distress. Sex- and age-adjusted odds ratios [95% confidence interval] were respectively 1.8 [1.5-2.2] for major depressive episode, 1.7 [1.3-2.2] for general anxiety disorder, and 1.6 [1.2-2.2] for phobia. A significant association between voice disorders and sick leave was also demonstrated (1.5 [1.3-1.7]).

Conclusion

Voice disorders were frequent among French teachers. Associations with psychiatric disorders suggest that a situation may exist which is more complex than simple mechanical failure. Further longitudinal research is needed to clarify the comorbidity between voice and psychological disorders.