Occupational burnout is a common problem in working populations, but its association
with sickness absence is poorly understood. The contribution of occupational burnout
to medically certified sickness absence was examined in a population-based sample
A representative sample of 3151 Finnish employees aged 30-60 years participated in
a comprehensive health study in 2000-2001, including an assessment of physician-diagnosed
physical illnesses and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth
Edition (DSM-IV) mental disorders based on the Composite International Diagnostic
Interview. Burnout was measured with the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey.
Sickness absences longer than 9 days in 2000-2001 were extracted from a register of
the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.
The occurrence of medically certified sickness absence was more prevalent among employees
with burnout than among those without burnout. After adjusting for sociodemographic
factors and mental and physical disorders, the odds ratio of sickness absence for
severe burnout was 6.9 [95% confidence interval (95% CI)=2.7-17.8] for men and 2.1
(95% CI=1.1-4.0) for women. Among employees with mental or physical disorders, severe
burnout was associated with a 7.7-fold risk of sickness absence among men and with
a 2.6-fold risk among women. The duration of absence was related to burnout among
men with absences, for whom severe burnout accounted for 52 excess sickness absence
days during the 2-year period after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, mental
disorders, and physical illnesses.
Severe burnout is associated with a substantial excess risk of medically certified
sickness absence among both men and women. This association is independent of prevalent
mental disorders and physical illnesses.