Occupational Risk Factors Associated with Work Burnout

This study was conducted to analyze whether the nature of a job or the amount of time spent working was associated with different manifestations of ”burnout”. Three distinct characterizations of burnout, namely, “frenetic”, “underchallenged” and “worn-out” types, were studied. The participants were all employees of a university. This study is the first of its kind, and its findings match with the clinical definitions of burnout syndrome. This makes it easier to formulate treatment modules for the subtypes of burnout syndrome.

Burnout syndrome is among the most important and commonly observed side effects of corporate expansion, along with stress and other psychological conditions. This syndrome manifests as exhaustion at work, cynicism (distant attitude towards colleagues and work), and professional inefficiency (lacking the ability to perform tasks properly). The individual ways of coping with frustration lead to the emergence of different types of burnout. The “frenetic” type refers to effective workers who work too hard until the point of exhaustion in order to achieve success. The “underchallenged” type refers to those individuals who no longer care about their jobs. They are bored, lack motivation and fail to derive satisfaction from their work. The “worn-out” type refers to ineffective workers who give up when faced with frustration and get no gratification from their work. The objective of this study was to identify the sociodemographic and work-related factors that could be potential triggers of burnout syndrome.

* The study involved 409 employees of the University of Zaragoza, Spain. The teaching and research staff, administrative and service personnel and trainees of the University, working in January 2008, participated in the study.
* All participants were e-mailed with the necessary instructions and given a link to an online questionnaire.
* The questionnaire gathered inputs on all the participants’ social parameters and lifestyle (age, gender, relationship) and their educational and employment aspects (work hours per week, duration of service, earnings).
* Using the “Burnout Clinical Subtype Questionnaire,” the participants were classified into three-burnout types: frenetic, underchallenged and worn-out.

Results/Key findings
* A greater risk of the frenetic burnout was noted in people working for more than 40 hours per week, when compared to those working less than 30 hours per week.
* The personnel in administrative and service jobs, especially men, reported greater underchallenged burnout than the teaching and research staff.
* Employees who were in service for more than 16 years had a greater incidence of the worn-out type of burnout when compared to those who were in service for less than four years.

Next steps/Shortcomings
Although prediction of burnout, based on social and employment aspects, is insightful, it is still not ideal as the personality traits of the individuals were not included. Moreover, self-reporting sometimes gives biased inputs. All possible responses for a complete and holistic diagnosis were not obtained in this study; therefore, the results of the study cannot be applied to the general, world-wide population.

This study shows the association between professional burnout and sociodemographic and occupational factors of individuals. According to this study, the frenetic type of burnout is associated with the number of work hours per week; the underchallenged type is associated with the type of work; and the worn-out type is associated with the “cumulative effect over time of the characteristics of an organization”. Identifying these variables will help in the formulation of effective treatment strategies for individuals suffering from burnout syndrome. This study is the first of its kind to have suggested the association between different types of burnout syndrome and occupational and sociodemographic factors.

For More Information:
Sociodemographic and Occupational Risk Factors Associated with the Development of Different Burnout Types
Publication Journal: BioMed Central Psychiatry, 2011
By Jesús Montero-Marín; Javier García-Campayo; University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza and Huesca, Spain, and the Research Network on Preventative Activities and Health Promotion (REDIAPP), and the Miguel Servet Hospital, Zaragoza, Spain

* FYI Living Lab Reports are a summary of the original report.

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