07/13/2006

Physical diseases are common among employees suffering from burnout

A research published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research showed that
burnout is an important correlate of cardiovascular diseases among men and of
musculoskeletal disorders among women. The purpose of the study was to examine
the association between burnout and physical illness in a representative
nationwide population based Health 2000 Study in Finland. The research was
conducted at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in collaboration with
the National Public Health Institute.

There is an association between severe burnout and physical illnesses
Burnout is a work-related stress syndrome consisting of exhaustion, cynicism,
and lack of professional efficacy. There is not much data available on the
association of burnout with physical diseases.  In the present population based
study, physical diseases were more common among the subjects with burnout
compared with those not having burnout. The probability of having a physical
illness increased with the severity of burnout.

Burnout seems to be differently associated with physical diseases in men and
women

Burnout was an important correlate of cardiovascular diseases among men and of
musculoskeletal disorders among women. The relationship of musculoskeletal
disorders and cardiovascular diseases and depression is well established. In
the present study, however, the association between burnout and these diseases
was not explained by current depressive symptoms.

Is burnout caused by physical illnesses or physical illnesses by burnout?

It is possible that poor physical health and a related lowering in one's work
ability may have a negative effect on the capability of a worker to cope with
his or her job demands, thus increasing the risk for burnout. On the basis of
this cross-sectional study, however, it is not possible to establish, whether
burnout is developed as a negative consequence of physical illnesses or whether
physical illnesses are caused by chronic stress and burnout. The causal
relationships remain to be investigated in longitudinal studies.

Working conditions should be adjusted to employee's resources

A change in the working conditions where burnout has evolved appears to be an
essential precondition for long-lasting recovery from serious burnout. Physical
illnesses are common among employees. However, all physical diseases do not
affect work ability. In order to prevent burnout, working conditions of
employees with limiting physical diseases should be adjusted to employee's
resources.

The research was a part of the Health 2000 Study

As a part of the 'Health 2000 Study' in Finland, 3368 employees aged 30 - 64
years were studied. Burnout was assessed with the Maslach Burnout Inventory -
General Survey (MBI-GS). Physical diseases were diagnosed in a comprehensive
health examination by research physicians.

Further info


AplusA-online.de - Source: Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH)