Do you find joy in going to work everyday? Or do you often find yourself wanting to pull your hair out at just the thought of going to work?
Burnout is a serious health issue in modern society. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes burnout as feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job. Importantly, burnout is recognized as an "occupational phenomenon,” not a medical condition, however, a number of studies have suggested that high levels of burnout lead to impaired mental health such as poor sleep quality, depression, and contemplating suicide. Additionally, decreased work satisfaction among employees along with increased turnover intention can have negative long-term impacts for employers. The dire consequences of burnout syndrome (BOS) make it too important to ignore.
Although studies have reported various contributing factors for BOS, the underlying causes remain unknown and current research is evaluating the importance of various environmental and genetic risk factors. It has been previously suggested that dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis may be involved in both stress and BOS. In response to this, researchers hypothesized that genetic polymorphisms which alter activity in the HPA may be predictive of how likely an environment is to produce burnout. To test this hypothesis, investigators conducted a cross-sectional study to examine whether certain polymorphisms of the corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor 1 (CRHR1) gene act as risk factors among healthcare workers in a Chinese Han population.
Data on burnout, work stress and non-work stressors were measured using common questionnaires developed for these clinical measurements. By comparing survey responses to genetic profiles of participants, researchers found that females experienced higher levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, while males felt a higher level of diminished professional accomplishment. They also found that subjects under 40 years-old and subjects with higher levels of education displayed higher levels of burnout as well as work stress. Most importantly, the results showed that work stress was significantly associated with all three burnout subscales: emotional exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP) and diminished experience of professional accomplishment (PA). Although the presence of the rs110402 genotype was not correlated with the presence of job stress or burnout, the results in the high-stress group showed that individuals with the AA genotype had significantly higher EE scores when compared to those carrying the G allele.
The major limitation of this study is that it was limited to only workers in the healthcare profession. Although healthcare workers are exposed to particularly high levels of workplace stress, burnout can occur in any profession, so additional research is needed to fully understand BOS. Despite the limitations, these results suggest that CRHR1 SNPs may play an important role in both depression and burnout in the context of gene-environment interactions. If you would like to learn more about these new genetic findings, you can read the full article here:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30953926
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