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Ambulatory Assessment of Psychological and Physiological Stress on Workdays and Free Days Among Teachers. A Preliminary Study

Wettstein, Alexander; Kühne, Fabienne; Tschacher, Wolfgang; La Marca, Roberto (2020). Ambulatory Assessment of Psychological and Physiological Stress on Workdays and Free Days Among Teachers. A Preliminary Study. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14 (112), pp. 1-11. 10.3389/fnins.2020.00112

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Objective: Teachers are affected by high levels of job stress, leading to one of
the highest rates of burnout. The purpose of our pilot study was to investigate the
diurnal course of teachers’ psychological and physiological stress responses [cortisol
levels, alpha-amylase, heart rate (HR), and heart rate variability (HRV)]. Another aim of
the project was to test the applicability of ambulatory assessment methods in daily
teaching situations.

Methods: In a non-clinical sample of eight primary school teachers (mean age = 43,
SD = 15.22, 6 females) in Switzerland, continuous biopsychological data on two
workdays and a free day were assessed. The teachers’ HRs and HRV were measured
continuously using an ambulatory ECG. Additionally, eight saliva samples were collected
from the teachers repeatedly throughout the day to determine the diurnal course of
salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase (sAA). Perceived stress and anger ratings were
assessed simultaneously.

Results: As hypothesized, the teachers’ morning cortisol levels, perceived stress, and
anger levels were significantly higher, and their overall HRV was significantly lower on
workdays than on a free day. Conversely, sAA levels and HRs showed no significant
differences between working and free days. Salivary markers exhibited the expected
diurnal course, with decreasing cortisol and increasing sAA levels over the course of the
day, while self-rated stress reached the maximum at midday during working days.

Conclusion: The results of the present explorative study show that physiological and
psychological parameters differ within working and free days for teachers. A comparison
between working and free days resulted in differences in morning cortisol levels, HRV
as well as stress and anger levels. The ambulatory assessment method was found to
be applicable in daily teaching situations.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

PHBern Contributor:

Wettstein, Alexander, Kühne, Fabienne


[16 w 0008 02] Physiologische Stressreaktionen von Lehrpersonen auf Unterrichtsstörungen Official URL




Jessica Brunner

Date Deposited:

26 Jul 2022 16:03

Last Modified:

26 Jul 2022 16:03

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

teacher stress, cortisol, salivary alpha-amylase, heart rate variability, diurnal rhythm




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