Objectives: Burnout has been viewed as a phase in the development of depression. However, supportive research is scarce. We examined whether burnout predicted depression among French school teachers.
Methods: We conducted a 2-wave, 21-month study involving 627 teachers (73% female) working in French primary and secondary schools. Burnout was assessed with the Maslach Burnout Inventory and depression with the 9-item depression module of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). The PHQ-9 grades depressive symptom severity and provides a provisional diagnosis of major depression. Depression was treated both as a continuous and categorical variable using linear and logistic regression analyses. We controlled for gender, age, and length of employment.
Results: Controlling for baseline depressive symptoms, linear regression analysis showed that burnout symptoms at time 1 (T1) did not predict depressive symptoms at time 2 (T2). Baseline depressive symptoms accounted for about 88% of the association between T1 burnout and T2 depressive symptoms. Only baseline depressive symptoms predicted depressive symptoms at follow-up. Similarly, logistic regression analysis revealed that burnout symptoms at T1 did not predict incident cases of major depression at T2 when depressive symptoms at T1 were included in the predictive model. Only baseline depressive symptoms predicted cases of major depression at follow-up.
Conclusions: This study does not support the view that burnout is a phase in the development of depression. Assessing burnout symptoms in addition to 'classical' depressive symptoms may not always improve our ability to predict future depression.