Certain work characteristics lead to burnout, illness: study

October 28, 2010

Job burnout among employees working in human service settings may lead to long-term illnesses, indicates a study abstract from the Danish National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen.

Data was compiled from a large-scale study of public-sector workers in human service settings, including social security offices, institutions for the disabled and home care services.

Certain work characteristics contributed to employee burnout, most notably "role conflicts" -- knowing things should be done a certain way but being required to do them a different way. High emotional demands, poor role clarity and low leadership also significantly contributed to sickness absence. Workers who experienced burnout had a more than 3 times greater risk of long-term sickness absence.

Researchers suggested efforts to reduce these work characteristics and identify worker burnout sooner might reduce long-term sickness absences.

The study was published in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.