Burnout - Economic Impact

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Burnout - Economic Impact

Burnout is an interesting topic that has garnered widespread attention in the media and in the eyes of the general public. Here we aim to understand the economic and social consequences burnout can have on a population. Despite the fact that data from different territories proved to be difficult to compare to one another, we provided helpful findings on the requested subject.

Prevalence of Burnout

  • According to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions , only a few countries have been able to report on major cross-sectoral representative surveys and data focusing specifically on burnout. These include Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
  • A study in Finland with a sample of 7,964 respondents reported that 3% of female and 2% of male respondents were suffering from severe burnout when the symptoms occurred weekly. Meanwhile, 24% of women and 23% of men showed symptoms of milder burnout when the symptoms occurred at least once a month.
  • In the Netherlands, after studying the working conditions of over 40,000 employees, the percentage of employees experiencing burnout increased from 11.3% in 2007 to 14.6% in 2016.
  • A study conducted in Portugal focused on 38,791 private and public sector professionals in four sectors such as education, health, distribution, and services. The results showed that 15% of the professionals demonstrated a moderate risk of burnout. Besides, there was an increase in the proportion of workers affected by burnout increased from 8% to 15% between 2008 and 2013.
  • In Austria, a sample of 907 individuals aged 20-67 was studied. They reported that 44% were affected by burnout.
  • In the Czech Republic, a representative sample consisting of workers aged 25–50 was interviewed based on the Shirom-Melamed Burnout Measure. The results of the questionnaire revealed that 20% of workers experienced specific burnout symptoms.
  • According to a German study that studied a sample of 4,511 employees, 10% of men and 11% of women reported experiencing burnout.
  • On the other hand, in the US a Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.
  • In addition, a 2019 report by Statista showed that the three states with the highest levels of stress included Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

Economic Cost of Burnout

  • In the US, burnout accounts for an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion in health-care spending each year. Also, it has been attributed to a higher risk of suffering type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol, and even death for those under the age of 45.
  • In the Netherlands, about 15% of sickness absence of the working population was caused by burnout and the annual cost of this disorder reached 1.7 billion Euros in 2005.
  • In the EU, individuals can be compensated after recognizing causality of occupational origin in a total of 8 countries. However, until now benefits through social insurance to burnout patients have been provided only in 5 of these countries. These included Denmark, France, Latvia, Portugal, and Sweden.
  • Burnout syndrome prevention has been discussed worldwide. This is mainly due to the economic burden of absenteeism and other negative consequences related to work performance in individuals suffering from burnout. According to a study by Kissling et al., the German yearly average number of sick days attributed to burnout rose from 0.67 in 2004 to 9.1 d in 2011.
  • Furthermore, few countries possess concrete statistics available on the association between sick leave and burnout. However, in 2017 the Arbeitsklima Index reported 6% of employees in Austria have been on sick leave due to burnout. Meanwhile, the German data provided by a BKK report from 2016 showed that the number of periods of sick leave had increased from 0.7 per 1,000 members in 2006 to 2.7 per 1,000 members in 2015.

Social Cost of Burnout

  • In 2016, a German study reported that 59% of those diagnosed with burnout also suffered from an anxiety disorder, around 58% suffered from an affective disorder and 27% suffered from a somatoform disorder.
  • It's worth noting that based on medical data, the prevalence of burnout as a medical diagnostic seems to be low (less than 5%). The study by Jacobi et al. proposed that this could be explained given the fact that most individuals suffering from burnout also suffer from anxiety and/or depression, thus they end up being diagnosed with these conditions rather than burnout.
  • Furthermore, A recent study in Denmark showed a link between burnout and the use of antidepressants.

Special Populations Affected by Burnout


Healthcare Workers

  • In 2019, Medscape surveyed over 20,000 physicians globally. The results showed that across the surveyed countries 36% to 51% of physicians suffered from burnout and depression. The countries that reported a higher rate of burnout were Spain and Portugal.
  • The 2013 Medscape Lifestyle Report surveyed over 20,000 physicians. The results reported a nationwide burnout rate of 40%, yet the 2017 Report found a rate of 51%, representing a 25% increase in four years.
  • In the 2017 Medscape Lifestyle Report, US regions with the highest burnout rate were the Northwest (54%), Southwest (53%), and South Central (52%) regions. The lowest rates were found in the West (49%) and North Central and Southeast (50%) regions. However, the minimal variation in the incidence suggests burnout is a national phenomenon.
  • In addition, the report showed that burnout was reported at a higher percentage by female physicians (55%) when compared to male physicians (45%).
  • A study by Shanafelt et al. estimated that a US healthcare system with 500 physicians, at the average national burnout rate of 54%, can expect to spend US $12 million yearly to replace physicians who leave the organization due to burnout.
  • Burnout has serious consequences that are not just limited to the well-being of the healthcare provider. Studies have shown that patient care is affected as well by healthcare provider burnout. In fact, the number of errors committed by a surgeon is correlated with the surgeon's degree of burnout. Also, higher levels of burnout among nurses are associated with higher rates of patient mortality.
  • Furthermore, burnout results in greater job turnover and increased thoughts of quitting among physicians. This can result in reduced workforce efficacy at an institutional level.

Millenials

  • Data provided by the Pew Research Center on the state of mental health of millennials (individuals aged 24 to 39 in 2020) reported millennials to have higher rates of depression and burnout than any other generation.
  • In addition, a report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield report from 2019 found that millennials are experiencing a physical and mental health decline at a faster rate than Gen X as they age. According to the study, without proper management, this could translate into a 40% uptick in mortality compared with Gen Xers of the same age.
  • It should be noted that these accelerated declines will result in higher costs and a greater demand for treatment in the future. Under the most adverse scenario, millennial treatment costs are projected to be as much as 33% higher than Gen-Xers experienced at a comparable age.


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