Good Risk Management Lowers Teachers' Emotional Responses to COIVD-19

Public school teachers' emotional reactions to working during the COVID-19 pandemic are lessened when they have good knowledge of and confidence in COVID-19 testing protocols and workplace prevention, reports a Danish study in the May Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen, PhD, of University of Copenhagen and colleagues analyzed survey responses from 2,665 teachers working at Danish public schools in May 2020. At that early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Denmark, students were returning to school after initial closure in March.

Responses shows a "surprisingly high" prevalence of emotional reactions. For example, about one-half of teachers said they were afraid of transmitting infection from work to home. Teachers who were still doing remote online teaching were more likely to reports worries about returning to work, compared to those who were already doing emergency teaching at school: 34 versus 19 percent. Overall, the teachers' concerns were similar to those in other groups of frontline workers, including healthcare professionals.

Teachers who were knowledgeable about testing guidelines who trusted that their colleagues were following steps to hinder the spread of the virus were less likely to have emotional reactions. In contrast, emotional reactions were increased for teachers who had inadequate access to personal protective equipment and those exposed to infected pupils, parents, or colleagues.

The study is among the first to focus on teachers' worries and fears during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings are especially important, given society's dependence on teachers' willingness to work during the pandemic and their individual conflicts between the duty to go to work versus the duty to protect their families from infection.

Further research is needed to see if similar risk management factors affect emotional reactions in other occupational groups. For now, Dr. Nabe-Nielsen and coauthors conclude: "Adequate risk perception should be promoted by proper communication of factual risk and clear guidelines for prevention of the spread of COVID-19 in order to promote the feeling of a safe environment and prevent long-term fear and anxiety with potential counterproductive consequences."
About the Author
Dr. Nabe-Nielsen may be contacted for interviews at
ACOEM (, an international society of 4,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ( is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.


Nabe-Nielsen K, Fuglsang NV, Larsen Inge, Nilsson CJ. COVID-19 Risk management and emotional reactions to COVID-19 among school teachers in Denmark: results from the CLASS Study. J Occup Environ Med. 2021;63(5):357-362.