Relationship between occupational stress and burnout among Chinese teachers: a cross-sectional survey in Liaoning, China

  • Yang Wang
  • Aaron Ramos
  • Hui Wu
  • Li Liu
  • Xiaoshi Yang
  • Jiana Wang
  • Lie Wang
Original Article



Teaching has been reported to be one of the most stressful occupations in the world. Few studies have been conducted to explore the effects of occupational stress on burnout among teachers in developing countries. This study aimed to explore the relationship between occupational stress and burnout among teachers in primary and secondary schools in the Liaoning Province of China.


A questionnaire that assessed occupational stress comprised of Karasek’s job content questionnaire (JCQ), Siegrist’s effort–reward imbalance questionnaire (ERI), and burnout assessed by the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey was distributed to 681 teachers in primary and secondary schools. A total of 559 effective respondents became our final study subjects. Hierarchical linear regression and logistic regression analyses were performed through the use of SPSS 17.0 to explore the association between occupational stress and burnout.


A high level of emotional exhaustion was significantly associated with high extrinsic effort, high overcommitment, low skill discretion, and high job demand. A high level of cynicism was associated with low reward, low skill discretion, high overcommitment, and low supervisor support. The low level of professional efficacy was associated with low coworker support, low reward, low skill discretion, and high job demand. Compared to the JCQ, the ERI was more likely to explain the burnout of teachers in our study.


Occupational stress proved to be associated with dimensions of burnout among Chinese teachers. It is important for administrators of primary and middle schools to note that strategies to decrease teachers’ occupational stress seem to be crucial to enhance physical and mental health of teachers in China.


Occupational stress Burnout Teachers 



The authors would like to thank all the administrators in all selected schools who helped to contact the teachers and to all the teachers who participated in this survey.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Bakker A, Killmer C, Siegrist J, Schaufeli W (2000) Effort-reward imbalance and burnout among nurses. J Adv Nurs 31(4):884–891CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bauer J, Stamm A, Virnich K, Wissing K, Müller U, Wirsching M (2006) Correlation between burnout syndrome and psychological and psychosomatic symptoms among teachers. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 79(3):199–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bu NL, McKeen CA (2000) Work and family expectations of the future managers and professionals of Canada and China. J Manag Psychol 15(8):771–794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Escribà-Agüir V, Martín-Baena D, Pérez-Hoyos S (2006) Psychosocial work environment and burnout among emergency medical and nursing staff. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 80(2):127–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Honkonen T, Ahola K, Pertovaara M, Isometsä E, Kalimo R, Nykyri E, Aromaa A, Lönnqvist J (2006) The association between burnout and physical illness in the general population—results from the Finnish Health 2000 Study. J Psychosom Res 61(1):59–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Johnson S, Cooper C, Cartwright S, Donald I, Taylor P, Millet C (2005) The experience of work-related stress across occupations. J Manag Psychol 20(2):178–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Karasek R, Brisson C, Kawakami N, Houtman I, Bongers P, Amick B (1998) The job content questionnaire (JCQ): an instrument for internationally comparative assessments of psychosocial job characteristics. J Occup Health Psychol 3(4):322–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Li CP, Shi K, Luo ZX, Yang Y, Li L (2003) Work–family conflict and job burnout of doctors and nurses. Chin Ment Health 17(12):807–809 (article in Chinese)Google Scholar
  9. Li J, Yang W, Liu P, Xu Z, Cho SI (2004) Psychometric evaluation of the Chinese (mainland) version of Job Content Questionnaire: a study in university hospitals. Ind Health 42(2):260–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Li J, Yang W, Cheng Y, Siegrist J, Cho SI (2005) Effort-reward imbalance at work and job dissatisfaction in Chinese healthcare workers: a validation study. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 78(3):198–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Maslach C, Goldberg J (1998) Prevention of burnout: new perspectives. Appl Prev Psychol 7(1):63–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Maslach C, Jackson SE (1981) The measurement of experienced burnout. J Occup Behav 2(2):99–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Maslach C, Schaufeli WB, Leiter MP (2001) Job burnout. Annu Rev Psychol 52:397–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Montgomery AJ, Panagopolous E, Benos A (2006) Work–family interference as a mediator between job demands and job burnout among doctors. Stress Health 22(3):203–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Naring G, Briet M, Brouwers A (2006) Beyond demand-control: emotional labour and symptoms of burnout in teachers. Work Stress 20(4):303–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Peter R, Siegrist J, Hallqvist J, Reuterwall C, Theorell T, The SHEEP Study Group (2002) Psychosocial work environment and myocardial infarction: improving risk estimation by combining two alternative job stress models in the SHEEP Study. J Epidemiol Community Health 56(4):294–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Podsakoff PM, MacKenzie SB, Lee JY, Podsakoff NP (2003) Common method biases in behavioral research: a critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. J Appl Psychol 88(5):879–903CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Schaufeli WB, Leiter MP, Maslach C, Jackson SE (1996) Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS). In: Maslach C, Jackson SE, Leiter MP (eds) MBI manual, 3rd edn. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA, pp 19–26Google Scholar
  19. Siegrist J (1996) Adverse health effects of high-effort/low-reward conditions at work. J Occup Health Psychol 1(1):27–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Siegrist J, Starke D, Chandola T, Godin I, Marmot M, Niedhammer I, Peter R (2004) The measurement of effort-reward imbalance at work: European comparisons. Soc Sci Med 58(8):1483–1499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Tsai FJ, Chan CC (2010) Occupational stress and burnout of judges and procurators. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 83(2):133–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tsutsumi A, Kayaba K, Nagami M, Miki A, Kawano Y, Ohya Y et al (2002) The effort-reward imbalance model: experience in Japanese working population. J Occup Health 44(6):398–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Unterbrink T, Hack A, Pfeifer R, Buhl-Grießhaber V, Müller U, Wesche H, Frommhold M, Scheuch K, Seibt R, Wirsching M, Bauer J (2007) Burnout and effort-reward imbalance in a sample of 949 German teachers. Int Arch Environ Health 80(5):433–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Unterbrink T, Zimmermann L, Pfeifer R, Wirsching M, Brähler E, Bauer J (2008) Parameters influencing health variables in a sample of 949 German teachers. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 82(1):117–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wu S, Li J, Wang M, Wang Z (2006) Short communication: intervention on occupational stress among teachers in the middle schools in China. Stress Health 22(5):329–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wu S, Zhu W, Wang Z, Wang M, Lan Y (2007) Relationship between burnout and occupational stress among nurses in China. J Adv Nurs 59(3):233–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Xie Z, Wang A, Chen B (2011) Nurse burnout and its association with occupational stress in a cross-sectional study in Shanghai. J Adv Nurs 67(7):1537–1546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Zhong J, You J, Gan Y, Zhang Y, Lu C, Wang H (2009) Job stress, burnout, depression symptoms, and physical health among Chinese university teachers. Psychol Rep 105(3):1248–1254CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yang Wang
    • 1
  • Aaron Ramos
    • 1
  • Hui Wu
    • 1
  • Li Liu
    • 1
  • Xiaoshi Yang
    • 1
  • Jiana Wang
    • 1
  • Lie Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social Medicine, School of Public HealthChina Medical UniversityShenyangPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations