Objective To determine the risk of hospital admission with covid-19 and severe covid-19 among teachers and their household members, overall and compared with healthcare workers and adults of working age in the general population.

Design Population based nested case-control study.

Setting Scotland, March 2020 to July 2021, during defined periods of school closures and full openings in response to covid-19.

Participants All cases of covid-19 in adults aged 21 to 65 (n=132 420) and a random sample of controls matched on age, sex, and general practice (n=1 306 566). Adults were identified as actively teaching in a Scottish school by the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and their household members were identified through the unique property reference number. The comparator groups were adults identified as healthcare workers in Scotland, their household members, and the remaining general population of working age.

Main outcome measures The primary outcome was hospital admission with covid-19, defined as having a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2 during hospital admission, being admitted to hospital within 28 days of a positive test result, or receiving a diagnosis of covid-19 on discharge from hospital. Severe covid-19 was defined as being admitted to intensive care or dying within 28 days of a positive test result or assigned covid-19 as a cause of death.

Results Most teachers were young (mean age 42), were women (80%), and had no comorbidities (84%). The risk (cumulative incidence) of hospital admission with covid-19 was <1% for all adults of working age in the general population. Over the study period, in conditional logistic regression models adjusted for age, sex, general practice, race/ethnicity, deprivation, number of comorbidities, and number of adults in the household, teachers showed a lower risk of hospital admission with covid-19 (rate ratio 0.77, 95% confidence interval 0.64 to 0.92) and of severe covid-19 (0.56, 0.33 to 0.97) than the general population. In the first period when schools in Scotland reopened, in autumn 2020, the rate ratio for hospital admission in teachers was 1.20 (0.89 to 1.61) and for severe covid-19 was 0.45 (0.13 to 1.55). The corresponding findings for household members of teachers were 0.91 (0.67 to 1.23) and 0.73 (0.37 to 1.44), and for patient facing healthcare workers were 2.08 (1.73 to 2.50) and 2.26 (1.43 to 3.59). Similar risks were seen for teachers in the second period, when schools reopened in summer 2021. These values were higher than those seen in spring/summer 2020, when schools were mostly closed.

Conclusion Compared with adults of working age who are otherwise similar, teachers and their household members were not found to be at increased risk of hospital admission with covid-19 and were found to be at lower risk of severe covid-19. These findings should reassure those who are engaged in face-to-face teaching.


This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Cite as

Fenton, L., Gribben, C., Caldwell, D., Colville, S., Bishop, J., Reid, M., White, J., Campbell, M., Hutchinson, S., Robertson, C., Colhoun, H., Wood, R., McKeigue, P. & McAllister, D. 2021, 'Risk of hospital admission with covid-19 among teachers compared with healthcare workers and other adults of working age in Scotland, March 2020 to July 2021: population based case-control study', The BMJ, 374, article no: n2060. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n2060

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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