Much has been written about burnout among health care professionals over the past two years. But research suggests that increased burnout is common throughout the population and workforce. A 2021 Women in the Workplace report surveyed 65,000 North American employees and found that 42% of women and 35% of men felt more frequent burnout in 2021 compared to 32% of women and 28% of men in 2020.¹
The continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant factor in this, but what else might be exacerbating the trend? A 2021 study in Frontiers of Psychology examined possible links between burnout and biological, psychological, sociological, spiritual, and cultural factors.² Researchers found a number of factors that can potentially play a large role in burnout. Here are 5 factors you should be aware of.
1. Nutrition and Exercise
Though it can be difficult to find time outside of work for exercise, it’s essential to try to do so. The researchers found a strong correlation between lack of physical activity and the likelihood of burnout. In viewing different studies, they found that employees who routinely did light-to-moderate exercise were less likely to report stress and burnout compared to those who don’t partake at all.
While there is extensive research on the link between exercise and burnout, there are fewer studies regarding the effects of diet and nutrition. However, the researchers suggest that there is evidence to support healthy nutrition, mindful eating, and food enjoyment as stress management tools.
The researchers define “self-efficacy” as the belief in one’s own control over their life and actions, and thus their trust to achieve their goals. Perceived self-efficacy was negatively correlated with burnout, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization. Patients who do not feel as if they are in control of their lives may be more likely to experience burnout and exhaustion.
3. Collegial Support
How supportive a work environment is can have a larger impact on an employee’s emotional exhaustion than they realize. Coworker support was seen as helpful for reducing burnout and exhaustion, but what was perhaps most important was the support or lack thereof from a worker’s supervisor. Employees feeling unsupported by their supervisors were more likely to experience burnout; conversely, supportive superiors were seen as a significant factor in burnout avoidance.
4. Work Autonomy
Feeling like you influence conditions and activities in the workplace combine into a category the researchers refer to as “work autonomy.” Feeling like you have a sense of control at work, be it over working a reasonable number of hours or avoiding micromanagement, goes a long way toward decreasing burnout. Feeling like you have little autonomy at work, conversely, correlates with increased burnout risk.
5. Alcohol and Cigarettes
Various studies have found a link between consuming alcohol and cigarettes and increased burnout. While people are likely to know the physical effects of alcohol and cigarette consumption, health care professionals with patients at risk of burnout may also want to inform them of how these substances can affect mental health and the likelihood of exhaustion.
1. Dockterman, E. 42% of Women Say They Have Consistently Felt Burned Out at Work. Time. https://time.com/6101751/burnout-women-in-the-workplace-2021/.
2. Listopad IW, Michaelsen MM, Werdecker L, Esch T. Bio-Psycho-Socio-Spirito-Cultural factors of burnout: a systematic narrative review of the literature. Front Psychol. 2021;12:722862. Published 2021 Dec 1. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.722862