In Japan, various kinds of stressful events have affected schools in recent years. One of the most serious problems with school teachers is leave of absence from duty, and the public has insisted that the problem must be urgently settled. Some education researchers1–3 believe that a major factor related to teacher absence is an increase in psychiatric disorders, but we believe detailed examination of the medical treatment and care of teachers as it relates to leave of absence is needed before such a claim can be substantiated. As a first step, we compared leave of absence records for teachers with and without psychiatric disorders in Japan during the 10-year period 1995–2004, using data recently reported to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. We focused on the correlation between leave of absence taken for all health reasons and psychiatric disorders among teachers in Japan during the study period.
During the period, the total number of teachers has decreased yearly from 971 027 in 1995 to 921 600 in 2004. In that time, the number of teachers taking leave of absence for health reasons increased from 3644 in 1995 to 6308 in 2004, and the number of leave of absence taken by teachers with psychiatric disorders has increased yearly from 1240 in 1995 to 3559 in 2004. The ratio of leave of absence by teachers with psychiatric disorders compared to the total number of absences taken for all health reasons has increased remarkably from 34.0% in 1995 to 56.4% in 2004. The number of absences taken for reasons other than psychiatric disorders also increased from 2404 in 1995 to 2823 in 2003, but the ratio has decreased yearly from 66.0% in 1995 to 43.6% in 2004.
In the case of Japanese teachers, we can conclude that teachers with psychiatric disorders taking leave of absence from duty is particularly relevant when considering the overall increase in the number of absences being taken for all health reasons. In each local school area or community, school staff should pay more attention to the mental disorders among teachers and make adequate intervention to treat mental illness at the earliest possible stage.