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Meaning in Life, Psychological Well-Being and
Paidéia
jan.-abr. 2013, Vol. 23, No. 54, 73-82. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1982-43272354201309
Artigo
Meaning in Life, Psychological Well-Being and Quality of Life in Teachers
Bruno Figueiredo Damásio1
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre-RS, Brasil
Rômulo Lustosa Pimenteira de Melo
Universidade Federal da Paraíba, João Pessoa-PB, Brasil
Joilson Pereira da Silva
Universidade Federal de Sergipe, Itabaiana-SE, Brasil
Abstract: The aim of this study was to evaluate the levels of meaning in life (MIL), psychological well-being (PWB) and
quality of life (QOL) in a large sample of school teachers, and to observe to what extent the MIL could act as a moderator
variable in the relation between PWB and general QOL. The study included 517 teachers from 57 public and private schools
in the city of Campina Grande, Paraíba, Brazil, 174 men and 343 women (averaging 36.5 years old, SD = 10.34). The results
showed that a significant portion of professionals had negative indexes of MIL, PWB and QOL. Inferential analyses showed
MIL as a predictor variable of both PWB and QOL. Moderation analysis demonstrated that the PWB and QOL showed
distinct correlations for individuals with high and low levels of MIL. Reflections for future research and occupational health
interventions are suggested.
Keywords: teachers, meaning in life, health, quality of life, moderation
Sentido de Vida, Bem-Estar Psicológico e Qualidade de Vida em
Professores Escolares
Resumo: O presente estudo objetivou avaliar os índices de sentido de vida (SV), de bem-estar psicológico (BEP) e de
qualidade de vida (QV) em uma ampla amostra de professores escolares, e observar como o SV poderia atuar como variável
moderadora da relação entre o BEP e a QV geral. Participaram do estudo 517 professores, de 57 escolas públicas e privadas
da cidade de Campina Grande, Paraíba, Brasil, sendo 174 homens e 343 mulheres (idade média de 36,5 anos, DP = 10,34).
Os resultados demonstraram que uma parcela significativa de profissionais apresentou índices negativos de SV, BEP e QV.
Análises inferenciais apresentaram o SV como uma variável preditora tanto de BEP quanto de QV. Análises de moderação
demonstraram que o BEP e a QV geral apresentam correlações distintas para sujeitos com alto e com baixo nível de SV.
Reflexões para pesquisas futuras e intervenções em saúde do trabalhador são apontadas.
Palavras-chave: professores, sentido de vida, saúde, qualidade de vida, moderação
Sentido de vida, bienestar psicológico y calidad de vida en profesores
Resumen: El presente estudio tuvo como objetivo evaluar los índices de sentido de vida (SV), bienestar psicológico (BP) e
calidad de vida (CV) en una amplia muestra de profesores escolares, y observar cómo el sentido de vida podría actuar como
una variable moderadora de la relación entre el BP y la CV general. Participaron del estudio 517 profesores, de 57 escuelas
públicas y privadas de la ciudad de Campina Grande, Paraíba, Brazil, siendo 174 hombres y 373 mujeres (promedio de 36,5
años, DE = 10,34). Los resultados mostraron que parte significativa de los profesionales presentaron índices negativos de
SV, BP y CV. Análisis inferenciales mostraron al SV como una variable predictora, tanto de BP como de CV. Análisis de
moderación demostraron que BP y CV presentaron correlaciones diferentes en sujetos con altos y con bajos niveles de SV.
Reflexiones para investigaciones futuras e intervenciones en salud del trabajador son señaladas.
Palabras-clave: profesores, sentido de vida, salud, calidad de vida, moderación.
Among formal professions in Brazil, teaching at
primary and secondary education level figures among the
professions with the higher emotional exhaustion rates
for workers (Reis, Araújo, Carvalho, Barbalho, & Silva,
2006). Based on an epidemiological study, Codo (1999)
indicated that 26% of Brazilian school teachers presented
inappropriate emotional tension levels. More recent studies
picture that these rates seem to continue in teachers’
1
Correspondence adress:
Bruno Figueiredo Damásio. Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul.
Rua Ramiro Barcelos, 2600/104. CEP 90.035-000. Porto Alegre-RS,
Brazil. E-mail: [email protected]
Disponível em www.scielo.br/paideia
daily reality (Carlotto, 2010, 2011; Penteado & Pereira,
2007; Reinhold, 2006), supporting the idea launched
by the International Labour Organization (Organisation
Internationale du Travail [OIT], 1981) that teaching is a
profession with high physical and mental risk levels.
Considering this panorama, which is not just a
Brazilian reality, Brazilian and international researchers
have demonstrated that the adverse conditions of teaching
significantly affect teachers’ rates of psychological wellbeing and quality of life (Kyriacou, 2003; Penteado &
Pereira, 2007; Xavier & Morais, 2007). Psychological
well-being is understood as individuals’ personal
73
Paidéia, 23(54), 73-82
evaluation about their experiences of emotional tension,
depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms, insomnia, social
skills and skills to cope with adverse situations (Goldberg
et al., 1997). Quality of life, in turn, is understood as
“individuals’ perception of their position in life in the
context of the culture and value systems in which they live
and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and
concerns” (The WHOQOL Group, 1994, p. 17). Reduced
satisfaction levels on these two indicators significantly
affect the way teachers practice their functions (GilMonte, Carlotto, & Câmara, 2011).
The scientific literature has demonstrated that the
adverse conditions of teaching, responsible for the drop
in teachers’ levels of well-beings and quality of life, are
distributed across different categories, including: (1)
administrative (high work demand; low autonomy; low
participation in the school’s administrative decisions;
little time to accomplish tasks); (2) financial (low wages
and needs of several jobs); (3) ergonomic (excessive noise
in the classroom; low luminosity; inappropriate quantity
of students per classroom) and (4) social (lack of social
prestige; violence; drugs in the school context; deteriorated
relation with colleagues), among others (Carlotto, 2011;
Nunes Sobrinho, 2006). It is important to highlight,
however, that the way the job characteristics influence
professionals varies according to both the context and
the person (Sadir, Bignotto, & Lipp, 2010). The impact
of occupational stressors on the subjects partially differs
because of the possibility to use psychosocial resources,
which favor strategies to cope with adverse situations
(Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Margis, Picon, Cosner, &
Silveira, 2003). Among these resources, the meaning in life
(MIL) has been considered one aspect that helps to cope
with situations that are considered adverse and enhances
individuals’ levels of psychological well-being and quality
of life (Ho, Cheung, & Cheung, 2010).
Meaning in Life and its Relations with Health Aspects
As a psychological construct, the initial theory and
dissemination about the meaning in life (MIL) came from
Logotherapy (Frankl, 1946/2004). Throughout his work,
Frankl (1978, 2003, 1946/2004) suggested that the search
for meaning was human beings’ main motivation, and
that MIL serves as a fundamental component of people’s
psychological and subjective well-being.
MIL can be defined as the perception of order and
coherence in one’s own existence, along with the pursuit
and achievement of goals, resulting in a feeling of existential
accomplishment (Reker, 2000; Steger, 2009). According
to Frankl (1946/2004), people fundamentally need a clear
notion about the purpose of existence itself and, what is more,
they need to act in the world in line with this perception,
constituting a sense of existential coherence.
Ever since their first publications, the theoretical and
philosophical premises of Logotherapy and Existential
74
Analysis have been widely discussed and empirically
measured in North American and European literature.
Decades of research have supported Frankl’s main
assumptions, showing MIL as an important predictor of
physical health (Jim & Andersen, 2007), psychological
well-being and quality of life (Fillion et al., 2009; Ho
et al., 2010; Melton & Schulenberg, 2008). A lack of
meaning, on the other hand, has been associated with
higher depression levels (Mascaro & Rosen, 2006),
suicidal ideas (Edwards & Holden, 2001), drug addiction
(Henrion, 2002), among others.
The functioning of MIL in people’s mental and physical
health is complex. Some hypotheses suggest that, as a
cognitive process, MIL is a central resource in self-regulation
and self-perception, supporting the use of adaptive behaviors
and offering a feeling of existential meaning. MIL by itself
does not regulate behavior, but guides subjects to be able
to overcome stressful events more easily through the use
of their psychosocial resources, making decisions that are
in accordance with an organized personal value system
(McKnight & Kashdan, 2009).
Despite comprehensive literature that demonstrates
the predictive and moderating role of MIL on people’s
physical and psychological health, most of these studies
center on samples of students and elderly people, while
studies in occupational samples have been scarce (Halama
& Bakosova, 2009; Ho et al., 2010; Mascaro & Rosen,
2005). Considering the benefits of this resource for
people’s physical and psychological health, investigating
MIL rates among professionals is relevant for different
reasons. In general, work plays a fundamental role in the
construction of subjects’ identity and can be one of the
main sources of meaning and direct the being towards
the feeling of existential accomplishment (Frankl, 2003).
Different empirical studies suggest that this premise is
consistent, demonstrating that work has been one of the
main predictors of MIL in different samples and age
ranges (Rosso, Dekas, & Wrzesniewski, 2010; Steger &
Dik, 2009).
Another important aspect that needs to be taken into
account in occupational studies is the fact that subjects with
higher MIL rates tend to show higher levels of well-being
at work and greater professional commitment (De Klerk,
2005). In addition, as a protective resource, MIL supports
the appropriate use of coping and stress management
resources, protecting subjects against negative events
and feelings experienced at work (Bonebright, Clay, &
Ankenmann, 2000; Mascaro & Rosen, 2006). Considering
teachers as a professional group that generally displays
high levels of emotional exhaustion, the aim of this study
was to evaluate MIL, psychological well-being (PWB) and
quality of life (QOL) rates in a comprehensive sample of
school teachers, as well as to observe how MIL can act as
a moderating variable of the relation between PWB and
general QOL.
Damásio, B. F., Melo, R. L. P., & Silva, J. P. (2013). Health Aspects in Teachers.
Method
Participants
Participants were 517 teachers from 57 public and
private schools in Campina Grande, Paraíba, Brazil. Like
the schools, the teachers were chosen through a nonrandomized convenience sample. The researchers aimed
for homogeneous data in terms of the variables ‘gender’,
‘teaching level’ (first three years of primary education, last
three years of primary education and secondary education)
and ‘type of school’ (public and private). Considering the
total sample, 252 teachers were interviewed at (state and
municipal) public schools and 265 at private schools. In
addition, 168 professionals taught in the first three years
of primary education, 173 in the last three years and 176 in
secondary education. As for the biosociodemographic sample
characteristics, 66.3% are female, 54.9% married and 50.5%
gain between one and three minimum wages. Ages ranged
between 18 and 65 years (M = 36.52; SD = 10.46).
Instruments
1) Quality of Life Questionnaire (WHOQOL-Bref).
The factor structure of the WHOQOL-Bref consists
of four domains – physical, psychological, social and
environmental – and a general factor (general quality of
life). The physical domain refers to organic health aspects,
collecting information about pain and discomfort, energy
and fatigue; mobility; need for medical care etc. The
psychological domain relates to positive affect, memory,
concentration, self-esteem, body image and appearance.
The social domain investigates interpersonal relations
and social support networks. The environmental domain
addresses questions related to physical safety and protection,
financial resources, transportation, housing, among others.
The general factor is a measure that covers satisfaction
with health and quality of life as a whole. The instrument
consists of 26 five-point Likert-style items in four distinct
measures: intensity (nothing/extremely), ability (nothing/
completely), frequency (never/always) and evaluation
(very dissatisfied/very satisfied; very bad/very good). In
the present study, the WHOQOL-Bref revealed Bartlett
sphericity test results 2 = 4365.973 and KMO = 0.92
(p < 0.001). All scale domains and the ‘general quality of
life’ factor showed satisfactory internal consistency levels
(physical domain:  = 0.80; psychological domain:  =
0.75; social domain:  = 0.70; environmental domain:  =
0.75; general quality of life:  = 0.90).
2) 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12).
The GHQ-12 (Sarriera, Schwarcz, & Câmara, 1996) is a
short version of the original General Health Questionnaire
(Goldberg, 1972). The short version consists of 12 items,
using a four-point Likert-style frequency scale (more than
common; much less than common), aimed at evaluating
levels of psychological well-being. In this study, the GHQ-12
revealed Bartlett sphericity test results 2 = 1568.645 and
KMO = 0.86 (p < 0.001). As the global scale score was of
interest, which assesses the level of psychological wellbeing, the one-dimensional version of the instrument was
used (Borges & Argolo, 2002). The factor, comprising the 12
questionnaire items, was called ‘psychological well-being’
(PWB) and showed satisfactory internal consistency levels
( = 0.82).
3) Purpose in Life Test (PIL-Test-12). The PILTest, originally developed by Crumbaugh and Maholick
(1964), is aimed at measuring subjects’ level of MIL. The
version used in this study is an adaptation of the original
instrument, which reduced the scale from 20 to 12 items
(Aquino, 2009). The questionnaire uses a Likert scale
ranging from 1 (I completely disagree) to 7 (I completely
agree). The KMO index (0.86) and Bartlett’s Sphericity
Test (x² = 1320.883, p < 0.001) showed satisfactory
results. For the aims of this study, the single-factor
version of the scale was used, which evaluated the global
MIL score (Aquino, 2009). The factor, called ‘meaning
in life’, included all instrument items and demonstrated
satisfactory internal consistency ( = 0.82).
4) Sociodemographic questionnaire. This instrument
was aimed at surveying sociodemographic information,
including age, gender, marital status, education level, hour
load, teaching level, among others.
Procedure
Data collection. Initially, the school principals
were contacted to obtain their consent with the teachers’
participation. On prescheduled dates, the teachers at the
schools visited received explanations about the project
objectives, as well as the Informed Consent Form and
the study questionnaires. The schools provided space
for any teachers who accepted to participate to answer
the questionnaires.
Data analysis. For data processing, Predictive Analysis
Software (PASW) version 19 was used. Initially, descriptive
analyses of frequency distributions and central trend measures
were calculated (mean, median and standard deviation).
Then, the subjects were classified in different groups (low,
intermediary and high score) according to their scores on the
variables ‘quality of life’ (QOL), ‘meaning in life’ (MIL) and
‘psychological well-being’ (PWB). Standard deviations (SD)
and medians were used to classify the subjects in the groups.
Subjects with scores equal to or lower than one SD below
the median were included in the ‘low score’ group; subjects
with scores between one SD below and one SD above the
median were considered ‘intermediary’; and subjects with
scores equal to or higher than one SD above the median
were ranked in the ‘high score’ group (MacCalum, Zhang,
Preacher, & Rucker, 2002). The higher the score on each
scale, the more positive the evaluated indices were.
Non-parametric Mann-Whitney and Kruskal-Wallis
tests were used to evaluate the differences in MIL, PWB and
75
Paidéia, 23(54), 73-82
general QOL levels with regard to gender, type of school
the teacher teaches at (public and/or private) and different
teaching levels (first three years of primary education, last
three years of primary education and secondary education).
Non-parametric tests were chosen instead of parametric
tests due to the non-normality of data, evaluated using
Kolmogorov-Smirnov and Shapiro-Wilk’s tests.
The relations between MIL and QOL and between MIL
and PWB were evaluated. Six simple linear regressions
were conducted, using the general factor of the PIL-Test-12
‘meaning in life’ as a predictor, and the five domains of
the WHOQOL-Bref and the ‘psychological well-being’
factor of the GHQ-12 as dependent variables. Finally, to
evaluate the moderating role of MIL in the relation between
general QOL and PWB, moderation analyses were used,
as suggested by Baron and Kenny (1986). Thus, a twostep hierarchical regression was developed: Initially, the
prediction of PWB (independent variable, IV) and MIL
(moderating variable, MOD) in general QOL (dependent
variable, DV) was verified. In this phase, the variables were
centralized (scores transformed into Z value) to minimize
multicollinearity problems of the data (Aguinis, 1995).
Then, an interaction variable was created (product of the
independent variable and moderating variable, PWB and
MIL) to evaluate its prediction in general QOL. Finally,
two simple linear regressions between PWB (IV) and
general QOL (DV) were developed for each MIL group
(high MIL and low MIL).
Ethical Considerations
This study received a positive opinion from the
Research Ethics Committee at Universidade Estadual da
Paraíba (UEPB) (protocol number: 0374.0.133.000-07).
Results
The results found for each of the scales used are
described in Table 1. Descriptive statistics for the PILTest-12 demonstrate that 18.6% of the teachers obtained
low MIL rates. On the GHQ-12, 12.8% of the teachers
scored low on PWB. For QOL descriptive statistics
demonstrated that 17.4% scored low on the physical
domain; 18.4% on the psychological domain; 16.6%
on the social domain and 13.2% on the environmental
domain. For ‘general quality of life’, this percentage
increased to 20.3% (Table 1).
Table 1
Scores Obtained on Meaning in Life, Psychological Well-Being and Quality of Life Indicators
PIL-Test-12 (Scale from 1 to 7 points)
Factor
Meaning in Life
N
Mean
Median
SD
517
5.80
6.00
0.78
Frequency of Participants per Interval n (%)
x < - 1SD
-1 SD < x < +1 SD
x > +1 SD
96 (18.6%)
389 (75.2%)
32 (6.2%)
GHQ-12 (Scales from 1 to 4 points)
Factor
Psychological Well-Being
N
Mean
Median
SD
517
2.86
2.83
0.52
Frequency of Participants per Interval n (%)
x < - 1 DP
-1 DP < x < +1 DP
x > +1 DP
66 (12.8%)
359 (69.4%)
92 (17.8%)
WHOQOL-Bref (Scale from 0 to 100 points)
Factors
N
Mean
Median
SD
Frequency of Participants per Interval n (%)
x < - 1SD
-1SD < x < +1 SD
x > +1 SD
QOL Physical
517
69.3
71.4
14.7
90 (17.4%)
377 (72.9%)
50 (9.7%)
QOL Psycholog.
517
69.5
70.8
13.9
95 (18.4%)
359 (69.4%)
63 (12.2%)
QOL Social
517
69.9
75.0
18.6
86 (16.6%)
392 (75.8%)
39 (7.5%)
QOL Environm.
517
54.5
54.5
14.2
68 (13.2%)
358 (69.2%)
91 (17.6%)
QOL General
517
74.5
80.0
13.5
105 (20.3%)
393 (76.0%)
19 (3.70%)
Note. PIL-Test-12 = Purpose in Life Test. QSG-12 = 12-item General Health Questionnaire. WHOQOL-Bref = Quality of Life Questionnaire. QV = Quality
of life.
After analyzing descriptive statistics for the scales,
significant differences between QOL, PWB and MIL scores
were analyzed with regard to gender, type of school the teacher
teaches at (public and/or private), as well as different teaching
levels (first three years of primary education, last three years
of primary education and secondary education). No significant
differences were found for any of the indicators.
76
Meaning in Life and its Relations with Psychological
Well-Being and Quality of Life
To evaluate the relations between MIL and PWB
and MIL and QOL, six simple linear regressions were
developed, with meaning in life as the independent variable.
The meaning in life served as the predictive variable for all
indicators assessed, with an effect size (r2) ranging between
Damásio, B. F., Melo, R. L. P., & Silva, J. P. (2013). Health Aspects in Teachers.
23% and 51% (Table 2). The data demonstrate that, for the
WHOQOL-Bref indicators, MIL explained 27% of variation
in the physical domain; 51% in the psychological domain;
25% in the social domain; 23% in the environmental domain;
and 42% of general QOL. As regards the PWB rate, MIL
explained 24% of its variability (Table 2).
Table 2
Simple Linear Regressions between Meaning in Life in Quality of Life and Psychological Well-Being
Meaning in Life (PilTest-12)
WHOQOL-Bref
GHQ-12
Bo (SE)
B (SE)
r
r2
F
p
Physical
1.52 (0.17)
0.39 (0.28)
0.52
0.27
187.795
< 0.001
Psychological
0.81 (0.13)
0.51 (0.22)
0.71
0.51
530.069
< 0.001
Social
1.04 (0.21)
0.47 (0.36)
0.50
0.25
170.272
< 0.001
Environm.
1.27 (0.16)
0.35 (0.03)
0.48
0.23
157.461
< 0.001
General QOL
1.23 (0.12)
0.41 (0.02)
0.65
0.42
379.514
< 0.001
PWB
0.97 (0.15)
0.33 (0.02)
0.49
0.24
165.180
< 0.001
Note. SE = Standard Error. QSG-12 = 12-item General Health Questionnaire. WHOQOL-Bref = Quality of Life Questionnaire. QV = Quality of life. PWB
= Psychological well-being. P-value for all indicators in the regression model (Bo; r; r2; and F).
QOL: U = 476.500, r = -0.53, p < 0.001) and on the general
‘PWB’ factor of the GHQ-12 (U = 376.50, r = -0.56,
p<0.001), according to the Mann-Whitney tests.
100
Quality of Life (Mean)
Considering the relation between general QOL and
PWB (β = 0.45, t(516) = 11.38, p <0.001; r2 = 0.20), it was
aimed to evaluate whether MIL could moderate this relation.
Therefore, the significance of the linear regression lines
between general QOL and PWB for subjects with low MIL
and high MIL was analyzed. First, a two-step hierarchical
regression was developed. In the first step, general QOL was
used as the dependent variable (DV); PWB as the independent
variable (IV) and MIL as the moderating variable (MOD),
the latter two centralized (Aguinis, 1995). In the second step,
the interaction between PWB and MIL was included, that is,
an interaction term was created, multiplying PWB by MIL.
Both PWB (β = 0.33, t[516] = 7.53, p < 0.001) and
MIL (β = 0.21, t(516) = 4.70, p < 0.001) served as predictors
of general QOL. What is more important, the interaction
between PWB and MIL also served as a significant predictor
of general QOL (β = -0.08, t[516] = 1.99, p < 0.05), suggesting
a moderating effect of MIL on the relation between PWB
and general QOL. To verify the sense of this moderation,
the MIL variable was divided in two categories – high and
low – based on one SD above and one SD below the median
(Table 1). Then, a simple linear regression was developed
for each group (High MIL and Low MIL). The results
demonstrated that the relation between PWB and general
QOL was significant for teachers with low MIL (β = 0.51,
t[95] = 5.753, p < 0.001). On the opposite, the same relation
was not significant for teachers with high MIL, (β = 0.17,
t[31] = 0.927, p > 0.35) (Figure 1). These results demonstrate
that MIL completely moderated the relation between PWB
and general QOL.
Teachers in the ‘High MIL’ group scored significantly
higher on all WHOQOL-Bref domains (physical:
U = 184.00, r = -0.66, p < 0.001; psychological: U = 33.00,
r = -0.73, p < 0.001; social: U = 402.00, r = -0.55, p < 0.001;
environmental: U = 256.50, r = -0.62, p < 0.001; general
90
80
70
60
-1DP
+1DP
Psychological Well-Being (Centralized)
Low ML
High ML
Figure 1. Moderating Effect of Meaning in Life on the Relation between Psychological Well-Being and General Quality
of Life (Quality of Life (Mean), Psychological Well-Being
(Centralized), Low MIL, High MIL, -1SD, +1SD)
Discussion
The descriptive statistics presented for each of the
constructs demonstrated that most teachers obtained positive
MIL, PWB and QOL rates. In addition, an important part
scored negatively on the same indicators, with 18.6%
revealing negative scores on MIL, 12.8% on PWB and
20.3% on general QOL.
77
Paidéia, 23(54), 73-82
Specifically with regard to MIL rates, the data found
here do not permit comparisons with national studies, as no
publications exist in the area in which this construct was
evaluated in teachers, nor in other professional categories.
Nevertheless, a considerable number of the teachers do not
feel themselves existentially accomplished, which probably
affects the execution of their work (Clark, 1995; De Klerk,
2005).
Considering the low PWB levels, some authors have
demonstrated that his variable is strongly related with
subjects’ willingness to face challenges in life, influencing
the way they respond to personal and social demands
(Keyes, Shmotkin, & Ryff, 2002). As the GHQ-12 evaluates
psychological well-being through self-efficacy, anxiety and
depression indicators, this significant part of the professionals
may be suffering from reduced ability to cope with the
difficulties and challenges of the school environment.
As regard the QOL scores found in this study, these are
in line with other Brazilian studies, undertaken in different
cities in the Northeast, Southeast and South of the country,
in which the mean scores (and their respective SD) on each
of the indicators were very similar (Fernandes & Rocha,
2009; Penteado & Pereira, 2007; Xavier & Morais, 2007).
Considering all scores, on average, one in every six teachers
evaluated displays deterioration on at least one important
indicator of well-being. Once again, the combination of
these indicators points towards the need to take a close look
at teachers’ health all over Brazil. This becomes even more
explicit when considering that these scores are even higher
when including teachers who were on a leave of absence due
to health problems, and therefore did not participate in the
studies reported.
Studying and elaborating preventive and protective
strategies for teachers’ health is both an individual and social
concern, as teachers with lower levels of psychological
well-being will also display a significant deficit in terms
of job productivity, which directly influences the quality
of education (Damásio, Silva, Melo, & Aquino, 2010; GilMonte et al., 2011).
As regard the relation between MIL, PWB and QOL
scores and sociodemographic variables (gender, type of
institution and teaching level), no significant differences
were found in any of the groups. Considering the relation
between gender and health/disease levels in teachers, these
results are not clear yet in the Brazilian literature. Studies
that evaluated positive aspects in teachers are scarce. With
regard to the evaluation of occupational psychopathology,
however, studies have demonstrated inconsistent results
related to gender differences. Silva, Damásio and Melo
(2009), in line with the study by Rossa (2004), for example,
found no significant differences in teachers’ perceived stress
rates according to gender. As for burnout rates, some studies
found significant differences between men and women, with
higher burnout levels among women when compared to men
(Carlotto, 2011; Carlotto & Moraes, 2010; Rossa, 2004). As
78
the teachers’ occupational psychopathology, PWB, QOL and
MIL variables are somehow related to the particular aspects
of the work environment, the cultural, social and political
context and participants’ personal characteristics (Chakur,
2005), this kind of discrepancies can be considered legitimate
and should not be understood as empirical inconsistencies
(Grayson & Alvarez, 2008; Silva & Carlotto, 2003).
With regard to the type of school (public or private) and
teaching level (first three years of primary education, last
three years of primary education and secondary education),
no significant differences were found either in relation to
MIL, PWB and QOL scores in this sample. In general, public
schools and more advanced education levels in Brazil tend to
be more favorable to the appearance of psychopathological
indicators in teachers (Carlotto, 2010, 2011). This is
mainly due to the fact that both public schools and more
advanced education levels in general present more stressors
(Carlotto & Moraes, 2010; Lopes & Pontes, 2007). In this
study, however, the obtained results reveal limitations, as
most teachers work in both public and private institutions
simultaneously and in more than one teaching level, so that
they cannot be correctly classified.
Meaning in Life and its Relations with Psychological
Well-Being and Quality of Life
Initially, simple linear regressions were developed to
evaluate the role of the MIL construct in PWB and QOL
indicators. The results found are in line with international
literature, which highlights the role of MIL as an important
indicator of positive psychological functioning (Ho et
al., 2010; Nakamura & Csikzentmihalyi, 2003), and as an
important variable for a satisfactory life (Scollon & King,
2004; Steger, Oishi, & Kesebir, 2011).
Considering the relations between MIL, PWB and
QOL, the analysis was focused on the extent to which MIL
could act as a mediating variable of the relation between
PWB and general QOL. The results demonstrated that MIL
served as a moderating variable of the relation between the
teachers’ PWB and general QOL. In addition, teachers with
higher MIL levels displayed significantly higher scores in all
QOL and PWB domains.
The moderation analysis suggest that teachers with low
MIL rates consider PWB as a fundamental source of general
QOL. For subjects with high MIL rates, on the other hand,
PWB did not act as a determinant variable in general QOL
levels. As people with high MIL rates show higher degrees of
satisfaction with different spheres of their lives, one specific
facet (in this case PWB) does not play a determinant role in
general QOL evaluation, which involves satisfaction with a
range of other aspects, like the environmental context, social
relations and physical health.
These results support some international studies,
which have demonstrated that MIL seems to be a cognitive
phenomenon (perceived existential accomplishment) that
positively affects motivational (search and concretization
Damásio, B. F., Melo, R. L. P., & Silva, J. P. (2013). Health Aspects in Teachers.
of personal objectives) and emotional aspects (higher
levels of positive affect) throughout the life span (Halama
& Bakosova, 2009), in healthy life situations as well as in
situations of psychological suffering (McKnight & Kashdan,
2009). Hence, MIL seems to act in two ways: as a predictive
variable of higher PWB and QOL scores and as protective
resource, making subjects more able to present satisfaction
with their QOL, even when their PWB scores are not high.
According to Mascaro and Rosen (2006), MIL is
capable of resignifying adverse situations, acting as a buffer
by modifying the perception and/or meaning of stressful
events (Halama & Bakosova, 2009; Mascaro & Rosen, 2006)
during the evaluation phase (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984),
reducing or eliminating their impact. Also, teachers with
higher MIL rates may also perceive life more optimistically.
As the meaning in life is positively related with constructs
like faith, love, happiness, optimism and hope (Ho et al.,
2010; Melton & Schulenberg, 2008; Steger, 2009) and is
considered a fundamental aspect in the resilience process
(Schulenberg & Melton, 2010), the presence of this resource
seems to optimize teachers’ satisfaction with different
aspects of their lives.
Considering the role of MIL as a predictive and
moderating variable of QOL and PWB, interventions based
on the theoretical premises of Logotherapy, aiming to
raise teachers’ awareness about existential aspects, can be
a powerful tool to address aspects of these professionals’
health. International literature demonstrates that MIL
development strategies are plausible, and that their benefits
can be perceived in different spheres. Fillion et al. (2009)
for example developed a psychoeducative intervention based
on Logotherapy in a group of nurses, aiming to help these
professionals to develop the search for existential meaning.
Indirectly, the aim was to further their satisfaction with work
and their QOL, as well as to reduce participants’ burnout
rates. In that study, qualitative assessments demonstrated that
the intervention was potentially significant. Nevertheless,
the authors felt the need for a more thorough assessment
of the process and impact of the intervention. Clark (1995)
presents a similar proposal, discussing how interventions
based on the theme ‘meaning in life’ can be used to reduce
occupational stress and enhance workers’ self-efficacy at
different corporate levels. Devising this kind of interventions
for teachers who tend to live under constant pressure can
be an effective alternative to improve these professionals’
health conditions.
This study presents some limitations that need to
be highlighted. First, the participants are part of a nonrandomized sample, which limits the conclusions and
generalization of the findings. The impossibility of
appropriately classifying the teachers into professionals from
public and/or private schools and with regard to education
levels also entailed limitations for the interpretation of the
results. For future studies, as a suggestion, professionals
could respond in which school type and at what teaching
level they teach, instead of suggesting a self-classification in
only one category. As for the instruments used, it is important
to highlight that, although these measures are widely used,
with appropriate psychometric properties, these are generic
meaning in life, psychological well-being and quality of
life instruments. Occupational measures that evaluate wellbeing or quality of life at work for example could provide
more precise information about the impact of teaching on
these professionals’ levels of well-being. As the measures
are generic, the extent to which teaching alone is influencing
the meaning in life, psychological well-being and quality
of life levels in the study sample is unknown. Finally, for
future researches, an evaluation of what aspects are related
to the presence or absence of meaning in life in the study
population (the subjects’ sources of meaning) would be
enriching, as this information would facilitate the execution
of interventions aimed at potentiating subjects’ humanisticexistential aspects.
Final Considerations
This study was aimed at evaluating the MIL, PWB and
QOL rates in a large sample of teachers, and at observing
how MIL could act as a moderating variable in the relation
between PWB and general QOL. Descriptive statistics
demonstrate that an important part of the teachers obtained
negative scores on all constructs evaluated. These data have
been replicated for at least two decades in different Brazilian
states, which underlines the need to consider public health
policies for these professionals.
The results also demonstrated that MIL served as a
predictive variable of PWB and QOL, and also as a moderating
variable of the relation between the latter two variables. The
interaction found suggests that, if the MIL rates were lower,
professionals would display worse PWB and QOL rates.
As presented throughout this study, interventions focused
on existential aspects of this professional class can be an
effective strategy to optimize PWB and QOL indicators.
In Brazil, however, the emphasis put on the MIL construct
and other positive personal indicators has been very scarce
so far. Therefore, the need to understand the main personal
aspects that can serve as health protection factors for these
workers is highlighted, with a view to devising preventive
and protective strategies based on each subject’s abilities.
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Bruno Figueiredo Damásio is Ph.D. student in Psychology
of the Post-graduate Program at Universidade Federal do Rio
Grande do Sul.
Rômulo Lustosa Pimenteira de Melo is M.Sc. student in
Psychology of the Post-graduate Program at Universidade
Federal da Paraíba.
Joilson Pereira da Silva is Associate Professor at Departamento de Educação, Universidade Federal de Sergipe.
Received: Oct. 14th, 2010
1 revision: Mar. 13th, 2011
2ndrevision: Apr. 20th, 2012
Approved: Aug. 27th, 2012
st
How to cite this article:
Damásio, B. F., Melo, R. L. P., & Silva, J. P. (2013). Meaning
in life, psychological well-being and quality of life
in teachers. Paidéia (Ribeirão Preto), 23(54), 73-82.
doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1982-43272354201309
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