Predictors of burnout: results from a prospective community study

  • Wulf RösslerEmail author
  • Michael P. Hengartner
  • Vladeta Ajdacic-Gross
  • Jules Angst
Original Paper


The possible link between work strain and subsequent mental disorders has attracted public attention in many European countries. Burnout has become a favored concept within this context. Most burnout research has concentrated on various professional groups and less so on ordinary community samples. We analyzed the data collected from a 30-year community sample during seven measuring occasions, beginning in 1978. In the last assessment (2008), we included for the first time the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Making the diagnosis of a lifetime mental disorder a predictor for burnout required us to compile the cumulative prevalence rate over all seven occasions. We also evaluated various psycho-social predictors of burnout over the life cycle of our sample. Concurrent associations of the MBI with subscales from the SCL-90-R were also investigated. The relationship of burnout with several SCL-90-R subscales demonstrated that, in all dimensions, burnout is associated with significant psychopathology. Persons with a lifetime mood disorder, and especially those with a combination of mood and anxiety disorders, had a higher risk for subsequent burnout. Various partnership problems were another predictor for burnout. In conclusion, the role of mental disorder as an occupational illness remains controversial. Various forms of such disorders as well as some psycho-social predictors can predispose to burnout. By contrast, work-related predictors appear to be less important.


Epidemiology Community sample Burnout Stress Work strain Predictor 



This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant # 32-50881.97).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest concerning this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wulf Rössler
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Michael P. Hengartner
    • 1
    • 5
  • Vladeta Ajdacic-Gross
    • 1
  • Jules Angst
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and PsychosomaticsUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Joint Research Institute of University of Zurich and ETH ZurichCollegium HelveticumZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Laboratory of Neuroscience (LIM 27), Institute of PsychiatryUniversity of Sao PauloSão PauloBrazil
  4. 4.Psychiatric University HospitalUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  5. 5.Department of Applied PsychologyZurich University of Applied SciencesZurichSwitzerland

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