Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree

9-2023

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Educational Psychology

Advisor

Irvin S. Schonfeld

Committee Members

Jay Verkuilen

Renzo Bianchi

Helen Johnson

Howard Everson

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Psychology | Psychology

Keywords

burnout, depression, occupational stress, teaching, teachers

Abstract

Burnout has long been recognized as a workplace issue among teachers, and other occupational groups. Burnout has potentially been increasing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Researchers tend to regard burnout as a distinct syndrome comprising emotional exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP), and reduced personal accomplishment (rPA). Recent evidence suggests that burnout (as a tripartite syndrome) lacks discriminant validity vis-à-vis depression. The overlap between burnout and depression was examined through two meta-analytic studies.

The first study (K = 13) examined the relationship between burnout and depression in teachers with burnout assessed using the MBI. The findings indicated that exhaustion (EE), and depression (Dep) were more strongly related (r = 0.68), than any of the relationships among the burnout subscales, EE and DP (r = .51), EE and rPA (r = .41), and DP and rPA (r = .43).

The second study (K = 96) was expanded to include all occupations and further burnout measures. The subscales were expanded to exhaustion (Exh), detachment (Det), and Efficacy (Eff). The findings indicated that Exh–Dep (r = .60) was again stronger than the relationship among the burnout subscales, Exh–Det (r = .56), Exh–Eff (r = .28), and Det–Eff (r = .36).

Sub-group analyses indicated higher (Exh–Dep) effect sizes in teachers (r = .70) than health care workers (r = .55) or other general workers (r = .58). Studies using the PHQ had higher effect sizes (r = .68) than studies using other depressive symptom scales (r = .55). Meta-regression also indicated the effects of mean age and the Exh subscales’ reliability estimates ().

Exploratory analyses using Meta-CART indicated an interaction between occupation and mean age, with teachers over 37 having the highest (Exh-Dep) effect sizes. Another interaction was found between studies using the PHQ and Exh’s > .88 having the highest effect sizes.

The findings of both studies indicate a lack of support for the syndromal hypothesis; that burnout and depression are separate constructs. The moderator analyses also indicate significant effects of teaching and age, and the PHQ and Exh’s Cronbach’s on the Exh–Dep relationship.

Future directions for research suggest re-visiting the burnout–depression overlap further examining depression with atypical features. Suggestions are also made to examine the role of emotional exhaustion in teaching in comparison to other occupations. Finally, it is suggested to examine the variability in working conditions, as a partial explanation for the higher burnout–depression correlations in teachers in comparison to members of other occupational groups.

These findings that burnout, particularly in teachers, may be a form of work-induced depression have broad and timely implications for both policy and practice.

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