How common is burnout? How many people suffer from it?
by Simon Dewaele on Feb 17, 2023
How common is burnout?
In modern society, burnout in indisputably becoming a bigger problem than most of us think it is. Understanding what burnout is, and how common it is will clarify a lot for you. We also go into the details of how you can prevent falling victim to it.
It's important to realise that burnout is a complex condition, that results from a combination of factors such as stress, overwork and work-life balance. In our blog on overwork, we discuss in detail how overwork can lead to burnout.
In this blog, we will go into detail of the prevalence of burnouts, which socio-economic factors impact this, and industries are more prone to burnout than others. Additionally, the frequency of burnout will be covered.
Are cultural or socio-economic elements at the source of burnout?
There are many studies that analysed the many different causes of burnout, and many of them concluded a similar fact: cultural differences and different countries show big differences in burnout prevalence.
Countries such as Japan have a culture of hard work and perfectionism, which contributes to a higher incidence of burnout. Countries with a more relaxed work culture on the other hand show the opposite. Looking at socio-economic factors like work culture, workload, environment and working conditions, studies concluded that many factors impact burnout incidence, and that a combination of multiple strengthens the prevalence even more.
We cannot claim that certain socio-economic elements lie at the basis of burnout, but there are
Is there a visible correlation in getting burnout and the sector you work in?
Next to socio-economic factors and the correlation to incidence of burnout, studies have been conducted on the sector or industry in which a person works. The general conclusions were that there are significant differences between sectors. For example, people that work in the healthcare, education or services sectors risk a higher probability of falling victim of burnout. The studies found that correlations between sectors and burnout prevalence were linked to the working environments in these sectors, such as workload, emotional involvement and personal control over the work itself.
A study done by Maastricht University (NL) analysed the hours worked by people in different sectors. It showed that, as expected, the higher the number of hours worked, the larger the probability of burnout following higher stress levels. Also, respondents in the healthcare, services and educational sectors reported the most stress.
Another study conducted by the University of Leuven (Belgium), studied the levels of burnout between professional groups, including lawyers, nurses and teachers. This study confirmed the above findings of higher workload, lack of control over tasks and added another factor: the social security system in place that supports workers.
There are however also studies that could not show the correlation found in some confirming analyses. Burnout still occurs in all sectors across the economy, and sometimes prevalence is hard to explain. Stress is a primary cause of burnout, and some people are just more prone to this than others, no matter the sector where they work.
Stress, work-life balance and social support play a role in the prevalence statistics of burnout, but these don't take into account personal factors.
How common is burnout?
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that about 3.6% of the population suffer from burnout. The frequency of burnout varies by region, and is growing to be a global problem. In Europe for example, the incidence of burnout has increased drastically in recent years, and it has now been classified as a work-related disease by the WHO.
In the Netherlands, 1 in 7 workers is overworked, and in Belgium, burnout has also increased in recent years.
In order to understand the causes of burnout and the preventive measures you can take, look into our blog that discusses the topic burnout in itself, and also the first symptoms that are noticed when being overworked of burnt out.