Getting older but working with forever young: Implication of an aging workforce in kindergarten and nursery school grade. (Atlanta, USA, 11th International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health: Work, Stress and Health 2015, May 6-9)

Marco Ferrara, Gloria Guidetti, Sara Viotti, Daniela Converso

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The Italian educational system is facing, more than other helping profession, an increasing aging trend of the teaching staff (OCSE, 2014; Argentin, 2013). This phenomenon is of primary interest in the kindergarten and nursery school grade In where job’s relational, cognitive and physical demands, are central dimensions in the daily care of young children (Macciocu et al., 2005) and where the teacher’s wellbeing is strictly linked to the wellbeing and development of children. Poor staff conditions in many nurseries turned out to be the crucial stress source, along with large groups, insufficient teacher-child ratio, time pressure, having to deal with parents that treat school as a child-minding service and having to perform more nonteaching tasks, such as mothering young children (Kelly, Berthelsen; 1995; Tsai, Fung, Chow, 2006; Jungbauer, Ehlen, 2014). In addition there is a higher involvement of the physical and bodily dimension in the daily interaction with young children not yet self-sufficient that could increase muscle-skeletal pain, headache, backache and reduce work ability (Grant, Habes, Tepper, 1995; Gratz et al., 2002; McGrath, Huntington, 2007). International studies dedicated to observe the health and psychological conditions of this teacher population in relation to the aging process, are quite rare and inconsistent, particularly in Italy. The aim of the study is to observe psycho-physical health conditions in a sample of nursery and kindergarten teachers in Northern Italy, taking into account age-related differences.

Procedures: A self-reported questionnaire, filled out by 734 nursery and kindergarten teachers included a demographic section and an Italian adaptation of scales to measure psychophysical health dimensions: Burnout (Maslach Burnout Inventory Education Survey by Sirigatti, Stefanile, 1993); Depression symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire, PHQ- 9, Mazzotti et al., 2003); Work Ability (Work Ability Index, Costa et al., 2005); Muscle-skeletal Pain (Cronic Pain Grade, Salaffi et al, 2006).

Analysis: Data were analyzed using PASW 20. In order to analyze psycho-physical symptoms’ incidence and age and professional task-related differences, descriptive and two-way ANOVAs were performed.

Results: Descriptive analysis highlight medium or high level of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization respectively for the 53.4% and 50% of participants, while 18.5% showed low levels of personal accomplishment. 38.9% of participant reported moderate levels of work ability and 5.6% poor levels. Limiting muscle skeletal ranged from moderate to severe in 42.9% of the sample. Two-way ANOVA analysis indicates how age and professional task affect emotional exhaustion (Fage= 7.165 p=.00; Fpt= 4.604, p=.032) personal accomplishment (Fage 2.790 p=.017) and muscle skeletal pain (Fage=7.283; p=.00; Fpt=5.592, p=.018) (even after controlling for BMI). Age differences are shown in depression (F= 3.063 p=.010) (even after controlling for adverse life events) and work ability (F=12.212 p=.00) (even after controlling for the BMI). No relevant differences are shown for depersonalization.

Conclusions: Final data indicate a specific trend in the levels of psychological wellbeing and physical health in relation to age and professional task (Kindergarten teachers vs Nursery teachers) : burnout and depression worsen as age increase confirming previous studies (Kinnuen, Parkatti, Rasku, 1994); at the same time there’s a deterioration of the physical health and the ability to cope with the physical demanding work feature confirming other studies (McGrath, Huntington 2007; Ilmarinen, 2001). Emotional Exhaustion is higher among Nursery younger (25-34) and older teachers (over 60), however, Personal Accomplishment is higher among Kindergarten teachers but it significantly declines in the older subgroup (over 60). At the same time, muscle-skeletal pain affects more nursery teachers than the Kindergarten ones, maybe due to specific physical demands that cannot be reduced in the educational context (recipients are ‘forever young’ and forever demanding in this sense).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2015
EventInternational Conference on Occupational Stress and Health: 2015: Sustainable Work, Sustainable Health, Sustainable Organizations - United States, Atlanta, United States
Duration: 6 May 20159 May 2015
Conference number: 11th


ConferenceInternational Conference on Occupational Stress and Health
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


  • Aging
  • Teachers
  • occupational health and safety
  • Burnout


Dive into the research topics of 'Getting older but working with forever young: Implication of an aging workforce in kindergarten and nursery school grade. (Atlanta, USA, 11th International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health: Work, Stress and Health 2015, May 6-9)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this