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Burnout has been defined as a condition in which individuals are left exhausted by a long-term confrontation with unmanageable job stressors. The question of whether burnout reflects anything other than depressive responses to unresolvable stress remains an object of debate. In this 911-participant study (83% female; mean age: 42.36), we further addressed the issue of burnout-depression overlap. Burnout was assessed with the exhaustion subscale of the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS) and depression with the PHQ-8. The relationships of burnout and depression with three jobrelated variables – illegitimate work tasks, work-nonwork interference, and job satisfaction – and three “context-free” variables – social support, general health status, and trait anxiety – were examined. Burnout and depression were found to be strongly correlated, to cluster together, and to exhibit overlapping nomological networks. Remarkably, the average correlations of burnout and depression with job-related variables were almost identical. A principal component analysis and a principal axis factor analysis both showed that the items of the MBI-GS and of the PHQ-8 loaded on a single dimension. All in all, our findings are consistent with the view that burnout is a depressive condition. The distinction between burnout and depression may be an instance of the jangle fallacy.


This work was originally published in Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, available at doi:10.1111/sjop.12460



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