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Vitality: The Pathway to Better Lives for Educators and the Students They Serve

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Vitality: The Pathway to Better Lives for Educators and the Students They Serve

By: Ian Fagala New Business Manager, Cigna Healthcare

Educators play a pivotal role in our society, from teaching our kids the skills required to succeed later in life, to creating the next generation of leaders in our businesses and communities.

Given this, it is of utmost importance that we protect the health and well-being of our nation’s educators – who are among the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know the past few years have weighed especially heavy on school administrators, teachers and support staff as they had to quickly establish virtual schooling systems during lockdowns, as well as juggle staff shortages with the transition back to in-person learning. They also needed to find new ways to better support their students as the pandemic dramatically affected their families, social life, and mental health.

Even with these recent challenges, most K-12 and higher education workers are thriving, according to new research from The Cigna Group on vitality – a study that assessed people’s capacity to live life with health, strength, and energy. Educators typically have strong ties to their family, friends, and community – as well as satisfaction with their personal lives and a commitment to the occupation. For instance, 36% of K-12 and 35% of higher education employees have been with their current employer for 10-plus years.

This research examined the relationship between vitality, health, and productivity among various sectors of the workforce, including education, surveying more than 10,000 U.S. adults – making this the largest study of its kind. The survey showed that overall vitality scores for K-12 and higher education workers are 70.0 and 69.3, respectively, rating higher than those in many other industries like real estate (68.0), health care (67.4), and hospitality (64.4). Total worker average is 69.3.


While vitality skews higher among educators compared to workers in other fields, serious health issues remain prevalent among these particular employees. One out of two educators surveyed reported having a BMI score that is considered overweight or obese, with less than half of education employees completing more than five hours of physical activity per week. One in four educators also use cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, or cigars. A quarter of education employees surveyed have been diagnosed with high cholesterol.

For context of the health issues educators face, the study found that about a quarter of these employees either serve as caregivers to a family member or friend, or are parents and have a child who is receiving care for a disability. As a result, they report that taking care of themselves and balancing their job with caregiving responsibilities as two of the greatest challenges they face, and likely driving factors behind many of these unhealthy habits.


Achieving greater vitality – the key to whole-person health – will be critical in maintaining a vibrant education workforce. People with higher vitality experience a wide range of benefits, from better mental and physical health to higher levels of job satisfaction and performance. Higher vitality is linked to more motivated and productive workers. On the other hand, low vitality contributes to poor work quality, higher turnover, and workplace dissatisfaction.

Dr. Stuart Lustig, a child psychiatrist and national medical executive for provider partnerships at Evernorth Health Services, a division of The Cigna Group, says there are a number of ways school districts, colleges and universities can support their workforces and help educators thrive. They include:

  • Prioritizing wellness and providing opportunities for workers to care for their own health. This is particularly important as many educators are also caregivers.
  • Maintaining good rapport between the school administrations and their educators while keeping their staff informed about what is going on in the workplace.
  • Allowing time in team meetings for teachers and support staff to talk about their personal interests, concerns, or life events. This can help foster resilience and connections at work.
  • Supporting educators’ family and personal commitments. For example, this can mean allowing flexible schedules or establishing off-work hours when workers are not expected to respond to e-mails, pagers, or calls. School administrators should have candid conversations with their staffers to determine what strategies would work best for them and to set expectations on how the workplace is able to accommodate their needs.

Vitality is a catalyst for growth that can help people achieve the healthiest versions of themselves, creating a ripple effect that can power healthier, more engaged families, workplaces, and communities. By better understanding vitality among educators and the factors that influence it, school districts, colleges and universities can fuel a healthier workforce – ultimately helping educators, and the students they serve, thrive post-pandemic and beyond.