Born and Bred to Burn out: A Life-Course View and Reflections on Job Burnout

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Abstract

Burnout is a response to prolonged stressors at work, and is defined as a chronic syndrome including exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy. The 40 years of research on burnout have yielded thousands of studies on its measurement, antecedents, correlates, and consequences. However, most of these studies have used a cross-sectional design, and only very few have addressed burnout from a life-course perspective. In the first part of this article, we reflect on the ideas that inspired our multidisciplinary “A 35-Year Follow-Up Study on Burnout Among Finnish Employees,” and the challenges that we encountered when conducting and publishing the study. In the second part, we focus on another understudied topic in burnout research, namely negative life events and their role in burnout. In the third part of the article, we more broadly discuss 6 important developments in burnout research over the past decade, and propose 6 key topics for future studies on this topic.

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