I was catching up on some research yesterday and came across a research study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology that caught my eye. A team of researchers in Sweden examined the responses of 388 working individuals on a questionnaire regarding work stress, mood, sleep, health, and other factors. Based on the responses, over a two year period, 15 subjects from the sample were identified as “burnout cases”. These subjects were assessed and referred for treatment for clinical burnout.
The researchers used the baseline data and measurements as independent variables in a series of logistical regression analyses to try to determine what factors most commonly predicted burnout. The main risk factor identified “too little sleep”, which was defined as less than 6 hours of sleep per night as the top risk factor in predicting clinical burnout. Additional factors included “work demands”, “thoughts of work during leisure time”, and “sleep quality”.
From a research perspective, this is a significant step forward in assessing the causes of burnout. While informally, many of the people I speak with cite work pressures and demands as beginning the burnout spiral, this study suggests that there may be a physical causation, not simply an emotional one, of the burnout phenomenon. Other research efforts (Armon et al, 2008) have suggested that burnout and insomnia mutually predicted each other; however, Jansson-Frojmark & Lindblom (2010) have contradicted the mutual prediction findings. Conversely, their findings support the findings of Soderstrom, et al. (2012).
The full research article can be found here.
Armon, G., Shirom, A., Shapira, I., & Melamed, S. (2008). On the nature of burnout-insomnia relationships: A prospective study of employed adults. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 5-12.
Jansson-Fröjmark, M., & Lindblom, K. (2010). Is there a bidirectional link between insomnia and burnout? A prospective study in the Swedish workforce. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 306-313.
Söderström, M., Jeding, K., Ekstedt, M., Perski, A., & Åkerstedt, T. (2012, April). Insufficient sleep predicts clinical burnout. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17(2), 175-183.