Posted by: healingtheworkplace | November 21, 2011

Avoid Burnout: Your Life May Depend on It!

Good morning!

I just read the following rather alarming statistics about the link between heart disease and working long hours. In April of this year the Daily Mail reported on a study of 7000 British civil servants (for some reason the Brits like to study their bureaucrats).

Over the 14 years of the study, the researchers found that those who worked 11 hour days or longer were 67 % more likely to develop heart disease than those who only worked 7 or 8 hours.


And I’m making an assumption here. Chronic overwork leads to burnout. In other words, overwork leads to “chronic stress”.

I don’t hear people talking about ‘burnout’ as much now as in the past but I’m certain that the problem has not disappeared.

Burnout describes a set of symptoms or behaviors including:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Feeling disengaged from others
  • Loss of feelings of competency and achievement

According to psychologist Pat Fisher, quoted in The Vancouver Province in 2005, “burnout begins gradually, and worsens over time”.

The consequences of burnout, in additional to deteriorating health, are increased risk of suicide, and higher levels of divorce.

There are consequences for the organization as well:

  •  Increased absenteeism
  • Increased short and long term disability leaves
  • Increased complaints from customers
  • Increased turnover
  • Increased cost of recruiting, orienting, and training new employees

The first step for both workers and the organizations they work in is to ‘take stock’ of the situation and do a thorough evaluation.

Individual workers need to examine their current levels of ‘self-care’ and ‘positive coping skills’. Organizations must look at what the level of ‘burnout’ is, what is causing it and what resources are in place to assist workers.

In addition both workers need to assess their current levels of stress and the effect that stress is having on their health and their work and personal lives.


  1. i am developing a project for school about this issue. there seems to be alot written about this in europe. i’d like to develop data within the u.s. feedback welcome, thanx

    • Hello Cassandra, thanks for your comments. I think the main reasons that there is more written about this topic in Europe is that the Europeans have been doing research into the area of stress and burnout for longer than we have here in North America. Lesley

  2. Burnout also creates a lethargy that zaps purpose. It’s hard to have any kind of creativity when you feel like you’re drifting along in life.

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