I am tired…exhausted.
Professional burnout is defined as occupational stress-related phenomena, consisting of three aspects: emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation or cynicism (taking an emotional distance from one’s job as a coping mechanism), and a sense of a lack of personal accomplishment or professional efficacy. Although burnout has mostly been studied in the health care and education work settings, for which the construct of burnout was “invented” originally, it is a highly prevalent phenomenon in a wide range of occupational settings in all industrialised societies. The overall estimates indicate that globally at least 10-20 percent of all employees can be classified as being burnout, causing a substantial burden for employees, employers, and the society as a whole.
Depression is statistically closely associated with burnout, especially with the emotional exhaustion facet, the percentage of shared variance being about 20 percent. The question arises what the nature is of the association between burnout and depression. Professional burnout may generalise to other areas of life and potentially be a precursor of depression. However, researchers have also hypothesised that a personal or familial susceptibility for depression may form a risk factor for developing professional burnout. Indirect evidence for this hypothesis has been explored with findings noting that general psychological health in adolescence and early adulthood can be associated with later functioning in inter-personally demanding jobs.
In the most recent of studies, after controlling for demographic and work related factors, current depressive symptoms were the strongest predictor of all three burnout facets (see above). More importantly, a personal history of a depressive episode and family history of depression predicted the emotional exhaustion and, to a lesser extent, cynicism components of burnout, over and above the effect of current depressive symptomatology. The results of these studies indicate that susceptibility for depression may consist as a risk factor for the development of professional burnout.
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