Burnout is a vicious cycle that makes work stress even worse.


Burnout, a chronic feeling of stress and exhaustion that leads to loss of various motivational and social functions, is said to be caused mainly by work stress. A new paper published by a German research team suggests that not only does job stress cause burnout, but burnout symptoms can further exacerbate job stress and lead to a negative spiral.
Reciprocal effects between job stressors and burnout: A continuous time meta-analysis of longitudinal studies – PsycNET
Burnout can exacerbate work stress, further promoting a vicious circle
The main symptoms of burnout include loss of emotion, depletion of energy, and fatigue, a feeling that the mind is far away from the work, negative and cynical feelings about the work, and a decrease in professional work efficiency.

According to Professor Christian Dormann of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the most important symptom of burnout is a strong sense of fatigue. This fatigue is different from normal work fatigue and is so strong that it cannot be remedied by the recovery phase alone, such as rest in the evening, on weekends, or during vacations.
Dr. Christina Guthier, who works with Dormann, adds, “Some people try to create a psychological distance from their work in order to protect themselves from further fatigue. This makes them more cynical, distancing themselves from their work and those associated with it,” she comments. He noted that many of the symptoms associated with burnout may also stem from malaise.

In collaboration with Professor Dormann and colleagues, Dr. Guthier conducted a meta-analysis of 48 longitudinal studies on burnout and work stress to examine the interaction between burnout and work stress.
The studies included a total of 26,319 subjects, 44% of whom were male and the average age was 42 years. The study was conducted not only in European countries, but also included Israel, the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia, China, Taiwan, and other countries and regions.


The analysis revealed that “burnout causes symptoms to progress slowly over time, further increasing the stress felt at work. In other words, burnout increases stress at work, which leads to a vicious cycle that further worsens burnout, according to the study. The impact of burnout on job stress was greater than the impact of job stress on burnout, the researchers reported.
Dr. Guthier noted, “When we are exhausted, our ability to cope with stress is generally reduced. As a result, even smaller tasks may be perceived as more difficult.” “We expected the effects of burnout on work stress, but the strength of the effect was quite surprising,” said Dr. Guthier.

Previously, work stress was thought to be the driving force that causes and exacerbates burnout, but the results of this study challenge this view. To break the vicious cycle of burnout and stress, the researchers argued that it is important for managers to provide appropriate support to employees, including providing opportunities for employees to provide feedback about their stress and thanking them for their efforts.