90% of burned out workers meet the criteria for depression

Occupational burnout or job burnout is a type of stress characterised by exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm and motivation, feelings of ineffectiveness, frustration, cynicism, and reduced efficacy. The term burnout in psychology was coined by Herbert Freudenberger in his 1974 book ‘Staff Burnout’ and is based on the 1960 novel A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene, which describes a protagonist suffering from burnout.

Social psychologists Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson developed the Maslach Burnout Inventory. The Maslach Burnout Inventoy operationalises burnout as a three-dimensional syndrome made up of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy.

A study by Bianchi, Schonfeld, and Laurent (2014) showed that about 90% of burned out workers meet diagnostic criteria for depression, suggesting that burnout may be a depressive syndrome rather than a distinct entity. The health related costs of burnout include increases in stress hormones, coronary heart disease, circulatory issues, and mental health problems such as depression.

Strategies to prevent occupational burnout include:

  • Training employees in ways to manage stress in the workplace.
  • Increased job control.
  • Starting the day with a relaxing ritual.
  • Adopting healthy eating.
  • Exercising.
  • Good sleeping habits.
  • Setting work boundaries.
  • Taking breaks from technology.
  • Nourishing one’s creative side

The financial costs of employee burnout mean that employers need to have programmes and support in place to manage this issue, or pay the financial costs.


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