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Down but not out: Burnout is another side of the pandemic

One downside of the pandemic is the impact upon people’s health and wellbeing. The extent of the problem is surprisingly wide.

One downside of the pandemic is the impact upon people's health and wellbeing. The extent of the problem is surprisingly wide.
One downside of the pandemic is the impact upon people's health and wellbeing. The extent of the problem is surprisingly wide.

People feel tired, people feel upset, others are frustrated. But ‘burnout’ is something different. More than a nagging feeling of exhaustion, it is fatigue of the body and of the mind. The problem is, the cases appear to be growing under the coronavirus pandemic.

This is the inference from a new survey, which reveals the effects of burnout have been experienced by 87 percent of people in the U.K. at least once over a twelve month period. Of course within this there will be different perceptions of ‘burnout’ and the effects will be either short-lasting or longer-lasting.

It also stands that the results are an extrapolation of a small poll, and such surveys are difficult to normalize across geography and demographics.

With the survey, this is titled “The impact of Burnout on Working Britain”. It was carried out by the company Kalms in February 2021 with 2,011 UK respondents. The results were sent to Digital Journal for appraising.

As to the reasons for the accumulated stress, key factors are found to be financial pressures, a lack of control of everyday lives, and a poor work-life balance. When manifest in ways that have a deeper psychological impact, they tally with the World Health Organisation definition of burnout an “occupational phenomenon, conceptualised from chronic workplace stress.”

Even with this definition, ‘burnout’ does not feature in many medical assessments. Psychologically, it has come to mean “three qualitative dimensions which are emotional exhaustion, cynicism and depersonalization, reduced professional efficacy and personal accomplishment.”

According to Dr. Elaine Cheung of Northwestern University: “The measurement and definition of burnout in the literature has been problematic and lacked clarity, which made it challenging to evaluate and classify it.”

However, the effects go beyond work as many have attempted to juggle home and work life; or home with the prospect of no work. This includes additional parental duties of home-schooling, as the survey indicates. The disparity with the division of labor in the home may well explain why women have experienced more symptoms of burnout than men, with low motivation (55 percent), increased irritability (50 percent) and low energy levels (54 percent) more frequent than their male counterparts.

In addition age was another factor that changed the experience of burnout amongst adults, with those aged under 25 attributing excessive workloads (37 percent) and people pleasing (26 percent) as two of the main underlying issues.

Further study is required in relation to burnout and the impact it has on others, especially during times of national upheaval.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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