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Job burnout most often hits women, highly educated workers

Eight percent of female workers experience workplace burnout, along with about five percent of their male counterparts, according to the occupational health institute.

A man with a stubbly beard lies on a couch with his glasses and work papers spread out and an arm across his eyes.
Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle
Yle News

Highly educated people experience occupational burnout more frequently than those with more modest educational backgrounds – that's according to findings published by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health on Thursday.

The institute cites data about employees’ views on their working conditions gathered by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The survey has been conducted annually since 1992.

Since 2019, the study has also focused on experiences of harmful stress and occupational burnout.

Mixed messages from the pandemic era

Despite the onset of the pandemic, there was little change in these areas in 2019 and 2020. In 2021 and 2022, though, workers reported a rise in experiences of burnout and stress, according to research manager Pekka Varje.

Female employees were more likely to report experiences of stress, with 15 percent of women experience heavy or moderately heavy harmful stress compared to 10 percent of male employees, he said.

As with occupational burnout, experiences of harmful stress are also more common among highly educated people. There were negligible differences between age groups, though.

In this survey, stress refers to situations in which someone feels tense, restless, nervous or anxious, or is unable to sleep due to worry. Such stress is not necessarily work-related, notes Varje.

The key symptoms of occupational burnout are defined as chronic fatigue, mental distancing from work, impairment of cognitive functions and difficulties in controlling one's emotions.

According to a separate study conducted by Statistics Finland in 2021, feelings of fatigue and lack of motivation and vigour grew during the pandemic, compared with 2018. More employees also felt a lack of motivation and psychological fatigue when going to work or beginning remote work.

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