By John Salak –
Maybe Elton John was right after all in his 1972 song Teacher I Need You.
Korean researchers at least think so. Their work maintains that students who have supportive relationships with their teachers enjoy better health later in life. Sure, good relationships with their student peers are also important, but the Korean research did not find the same link between these positive relationships and better adult health.
The impact of adolescent relationship on long term health has been recognized via previous studies. This work, however, focused more on how poor relations with family and friends can have a negative long-term impact on health that may stem from the stress generated by these relationships. Few, if any studies, focused on the impact of student-teacher relationships.
The study undertaken by Korea University in Seoul delved into these relationships by analyzing data from the Add Health study that followed nearly 20,000 U.S. students, including 3,400 pairs of siblings, over 13 years from seventh grade to early adulthood. The participants continued to answer questions on relationships with siblings, friends, teachers and other adults during this time. The Add Health study also examined how these participants fared physically over time in terms of blood pressure, body mass index and other factors.
Korean researchers found, as expected, that students who had good relationships with the peers and teachers had better health in their early 20s. However, when the researchers controlled the results for family background by examining how pairs of siblings fared, they found that only positive relationships between individuals and teachers had a significant and positive correlation on adult health.
“This research suggests that improving students’ relationships with teachers could have important, positive and long-lasting effects beyond just academic success,” said Jinho Kim, PhD, an assistant professor Korea University who authored the study.
Ultimately, this means that teacher-student relationships are even more important than previously realized, which Kim suggests should lead schools to invest in more teacher training.
“This is not something that most teachers receive much training in,” he said, “but it should be.”
It also might bring a new focus and appreciation for teachers.