The Chicago Journal

Burnout: looking into the workplace phenomenon

Burnout Shortly before the 2020 pandemic, studies and media reports showed that burnout was occurring quite frequently among working people.

Work with the highest liability of burnout includes the health care, education and service sectors.

It got even more attention when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation earlier in 2023.

“I know what the job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice.”

Psychologist Christina Masrach, who has studied work-related stress for decades, found a term that pops up frequently in her investigation.

“She’s talking about an empty tank,” Maslach pointed out.

Maslach said the pandemic shows how crucial work is to a healthy and productive society, even when people are exasperated. 

Modern understanding

Some researchers argue that burnout is a modern phenomenon caused by our busy culture, while others argue that it is just another repetition of a long series of fatigue problems. tired. .

They mentioned the ancient Greek concept of Asedia, which the fifth-century monk and theologian John Cassian described as physical lethargy and deprivation.

In the 1970s, Herbert Freudenberger, a psychological consultant for volunteers working with drug addicts, coined the term “burnout”.

Freudenberger used this phrase to describe the following characteristics of volunteers:   

  • A gradual loss of motivation
  • Emotional depletion
  • Reduced commitment

Christina Maslach noticed similar trends in interviews with social workers in California, which inspired her to develop a burnout detector, the Maslach Burnout Inventory.

They discovered three of the traits with Susan Jackson, a PhD student at the time.

Feelings of chronic fatigue, cynicism and inefficiency, or low personal achievement.

According to Renzo Bianchi, an occupational psychologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Maslach’s scale has elevated burnout to a legitimate research topic. 

“Before [the Maslach Burnout Inventory], burnout was pop psychology,” said Bianchi.


Since its conception, Maslach’s inventory has been the most extensively used instrument for investigating burnout, although its description of the disorder has been disputed.

Organizational psychologists Wilmar Schaufeli and Dirk Enzmann wrote The Burnout Companion to Study and Practice: A Critical Analysis in 1998.

They maintained that boxing burnout, described as a combination of tiredness, cynicism, and inefficiency, was “arbitrary.”

“What would have happened if other items had been included?” they proposed.

“Most likely, other dimensions would have appeared.”

The three causes, according to Evangelia Demerouti of Eindhoven University of Technology, are loosely defined.

Other factors such as health concerns and familial responsibilities can all contribute to fatigue.

Disagreements have arisen between opposing viewpoints, one of which is how to use Maslachi’s inventory.

There was no reference to a cutoff to define when people went from not burnt out to burnt out.

It was instead intended to help academics identify similarities in a work environment or profession.

Maslach had limited influence on how others used the method. 

A modified version of the Maslach Burnout Inventory was used in 86% of the medical burnout studies presented in JAMA 2018, some of which reduced the number of statements or reduced the assessment of burnout. 

Researchers used an unvalidated version of the scale that included cutoff value, but there was little agreement on its definition.

The JAMA researchers found 142 types of fatigue.

Researchers identified 11 different assessment instruments that did not use inventory variants in the study group. 

Concerns have led educators to rethink how burnout is defined and measured. 

“We don’t [have] a good conceptualization of diagnosis of burnout,” said Demerouti.

“We need to start from scratch.”

Read also: FGF21 shots in mice might be a solution to sobering up faster


According to Bianchi and his team in 2021, experts agree that fatigue is an important aspect. 

Research over the past two decades has focused on the idea that burnout causes cognitive changes such as memory loss and difficulty concentrating. 

This problem can lead to forgetfulness, says Charlie Renaud of the University of Rennes 

People’s problems can escalate into personal situations and make entertainment difficult. 

Renaud argued that as more information becomes available, questions about cognitive changes are added to writing scientific assessments. 

Connection to depression

Depression is often attributed to individuals, but theories appear to be conflicting as to which social factors cause burnout. 

The Researchers questioned whether the latter would arise as a diagnosis by itself. 

Research suggests that the concepts are not mutually exclusive. 

Prolonged stress at work can lead to depression, and mood burnout. 

Furthermore, according to Bianchi and colleagues, fatigue is related to depression, not cynicism or incompetence. 

If the symptoms are covered by fatigue, then fatigue and sadness appear to be a more durable combination than Maslach’s inventory. 

“The real problem is that we want to believe that burnout is not a depressive condition [or] as severe as a depressive condition,” said Bianchi, but he said it isn’t true.

Should it be diagnosed?

The diagnosis is controversial because not everyone thinks it’s a good idea. 

“Burnout was never, ever thought of as a clinical diagnosis,” Maslach explained.

However, Bianchi and his team disagreed with this statement. 

They developed a proprietary scale, the Occupational Depression Inventory, to measure nine core symptoms associated with work-related major depression, which including cognitive decline and increased risk of suicide death. 

If burnout is related to depression, it may need to be addressed. Bianchi says. 

“Hopefully, the interventions, the treatments, the forms of support that exist for depressed people can be applied for occupational depression,” he said.

According to Kirsi Aloha of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, this treatment does not lessen the work-related stress that causes the condition. 

“[Imagine] the person is on sick leave, for example, for a few weeks and recuperates and rests,” she offered.

“And he comes back to the exactly same situation where the demands are too high and no support and whatever. Then he or she starts burning out again.”

Burnout is not current included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 

Maslak’s Bern theory was supported when the World Health Organization classified the syndrome in its 2019 International Classification of Diseases. 

However, the World Health Organization says it is a tool and not a health problem.  

Mental health struggles are factors for college students considering to drop out

Mental healthAccording to a new survey, many college students are concerned about their mental health and are considering dropping out.

Based on the survey, two out of every five undergraduate students, or about half of all female students, experience emotional stress throughout their studies on a regular basis.

The survey

The latest findings were announced on Thursday by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, a private independent organization.

The survey was conducted in the fall of 2022, and 12,000 people with a high school graduation but no associate’s or bachelor’s degree participated.

More than 40% of undergraduate degree students considered dropping out in the past six months, according to the study.

Some participants preferred emotional distress and personal mental health to financial challenges and academic difficulties.

According to experts, the adolescent years are a critical period for mental health, and college brings significant changes that can function as additional sensors.

Sarah K. Lipson, an assistant professor at Boston University and the Healthy Minds Network’s principal investigator, explained further:

“About 75% of lifetime mental health problems will onset by the mid-20s, so that means that the college years are a very epidemiologically vulnerable time.”

“And then for many adolescents and young adults, the transition to college comes with newfound autonomy.”

“They may be experiencing the first signs and symptoms of mental health problems while now in this new level of independence that also includes new independence over their decision-making as it relates to mental health.”

A mental disease affects one out of every five people in the United States, with young individuals aged 18 to 25 suffering a disproportionate amount of the burden.

For years, the rate of college students suffering from anxiety and depression has been rising, and the issue has only become worse since the epidemic.

In 2023, half of young adults aged 18 to 24 reported anxiety and depressive symptoms, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

Breaking the stigma

Experts agree that mental health in college is crucial.

Lipson claims that it identifies virtually every long-term consequence that people care about, including:

  • The future
  • Economic earnings
  • Workplace productivity
  • Future mental health
  • Future physical health

With this in mind, support is critically needed.

A Healthy Minds Network research from 2021 found that one out of every seven college students reported suicidal thoughts, which was greater than in 2020.

Read also: Covid-19 source still unknown, but raccoon fox could be linked

The Fountain House’s College ReEntry program’s director of outreach and research, Julie Wolfson, stated:

“For a lot of students, this isn’t what they saw their life looking like. This isn’t the timeline that they had for themselves.”

“They see their friends continuing on and becoming juniors and seniors, graduating and getting their first job. But they feel stuck and like they’re watching their life plan slipping away.”

Lipson went on to say that it creates a guilt spiral.

Mental health specialists, on the other hand, pointed out the importance of putting personal needs over the status quo.

“There’s no shame in taking some time off,” said Union College psychologist Marcus Hotaling.

“Take a semester. Take a year. Get yourself better – whether it be through therapy or medication – and come back stronger, a better student, more focused, and more importantly, healthier.”

Authorities also urge educational institutions to help by alleviating pressure by enacting policies that make it simpler for students to return.

“When a student is trying to do the best thing for themselves, that should be celebrated and promoted,” said Wolfson.

“For a school to then put a ton of barriers for them to come back, it makes students not want to seek help.”

“I would hope that in the future, there could be policies and systems that are more welcoming to students who are trying to take care of themselves.”

Support development

Mental health therapy is subjective, and experts suggest that taking a break from school is not for everyone.

Monitoring progress through self-assessments of symptoms and gauges of functioning, according to Ryan Patel, head of the American College Health Association’s mental health section, could help in making the decision.

“If we’re making progress and you’re getting better, then it could make sense to think about continuing school,” said Patel.

“But if you’re doing everything you can in your day-to-day life to improve your mental health and we’re not making progress, or things are getting worse despite best efforts, that’s where the differentiating point occurs, in my mind.”

College counseling centers are struggling to keep up with rising demand.

Moreover, the mental health professional shortage extends beyond the universities.

Researchers feel that universities are well situated to provide students with a support system.

“Colleges have an educational mission, and I would make the argument that spreads to education about health and safety,” said Hotaling.

He feels that college teachers should be trained to recognize serious situations or threats to their students’ safety.

They should be aware, however, that students may experience a series of mental health concerns and should be aware of the services available to assist them.

Mental health becomes concern following studies

Mental health: The brains of teenagers in the US changed during the Covid-19 pandemic, causing them to age faster than average, according to studies.

Younger study participants reported more severe symptoms of anxiety, depression, and internalized problems.

Internalized problems typically include feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, anxiety, and difficulty regulating emotions.

The symptoms all appeared after the first year of the pandemic.


Recent studies reveal multiple factors that caused adolescent mental health to suffer during the pandemic.

Teens were pulled out of school and separated from friends and support structures.

Many were forced to live with fear and uncertainty the Coronavirus brought.

Additionally, teens witnessed their parents losing their jobs while millions lost their parents and loved ones to the Coronavirus.

The study

Titled Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science, the study is among the first to examine physical changes in the brain caused by stress and anxiety.

The paper was also published last Thursday.

The research comes from a more extensive study in which scientists tried to understand gender differences in adolescent depression.

Eight years ago, scientists launched a plan to perform MRI scans on 220 children aged 9 and 13 every two years.

The team conducted two rounds of analysis before the pandemic halted their research.

As a result, they had to wait until late 2020 to resume the scanning.

Read also: Portland woman breaks into another apartment and raises mental health help concerns

The brain

By then, scientists determined that the children affected by the 2020 pandemic had brains older than their chronological age.

The brain had growths in the amygdala and hippocampus.

The amygdala is the area regulating anxiety and stress, while the hippocampus is the area controlling access to memories.

During this time, tissues in the cortex, the part of the brain that controls executive functions, have thinned.

While a child’s brain naturally changes over time, research has shown that physical changes can happen more quickly in the face of significant adversity.

Other studies show that the brains of people who experience abuse, neglect, poverty and family problems early in life age faster.

They are also prone to later mental health issues.


The study’s lead author is Ian Gotlib, who teaches psychology at Stanford University.

He said the team expected to find a problem behind anxiety and depression.

However, they weren’t sure what they’d find with the MRI scans.

“The pandemic has not been kind to adolescent mental health,” said Gotlib.

“It’s always interesting to do research like this when you’re not really sure what’s going to happen.”

“These effects were interesting and happened pretty quickly.”

“This wasn’t just a one-year shutdown,” Gotlib added.

“So we didn’t know that the effects on the brain would be this pronounced after that short a period of stress.”

“It tracks with the mental health difficulties that we’re seeing.”

Ian Gotlib says it is unclear whether brain changes will have an impact as they grow older.

Future plans

Ian Gotlib’s team plans to examine ten children from the study who had Covid-19 to see if there is a different effect.

He noted that the physical difference is more pronounced in children with Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the diversion chief of pediatric neurology at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Dr. Max Wiznitzer, agreed that the brain changes were interesting.

However, he stressed whether the mental health issues persist is more important.

“The anatomy is not important,” said Wiznitzer, who was uninvolved with the research.

“It’s the functionality that’s important.”

“The clinical consequence here is the functional impact, the mental health condition clinically and how it’s functioning and how you deal with it.”

Wiznitzer also said that people can manage anxiety or depression with the right mental health interventions.

“The brain has that capacity for reorganization – or call it improvement, if you will,” said Wiznitzer.

Read also: Dylan Sessler’s One-on-One Mental Health Coaching Helps People Overcome Their Struggles

Other notes

Ian Gotlib is hopeful that parents and guardians will remember that mental health consequences can linger despite the end of lockdowns and school closures.

“Be sure that your adolescent or your teen is getting any help that he or she, that they, might need if they’re experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety or being withdrawn.”


Teens’ brain aged faster during the first year of the pandemic, study says, and stress may be to blame

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