Occupational burnout most often affects women and the highly educated

Occupational burnout is not about age, but gender and the level of education predict the likelihood of it. Of the entire employee population, approximately 8% of women and 5% of men experience occupational burnout. Highly educated people experience occupational burnout more often than people with a lower educational level. Comprehensive data is now available in the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health's Work-Life Knowledge service.
Pekka Varje
Pekka Varje

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release, 8 June 2023

Employees’ views on their working conditions are studied annually in the Working Life Barometer by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The study has been conducted annually since 1992. Since 2019, the study has also focused on experiences of stress and occupational burnout and, previously, it dealt with the mental strain of work and work ability in relation to the mental demands of work. The material can now be accessed in the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health's Work-Life Knowledge service.

“In Work-Life Knowledge, users can easily examine experiences of occupational burnout and stress in the working population with various filters. The material can be browsed in various ways, either quantitatively or concatenated,” says Research Manage Pekka Varje.

Similar to 2021, experiences of occupational burnout and harmful stress were also on the rise in 2022. There were very few changes between the experiences in 2019 and 2020.

Experiencing harmful stress is more common than occupational burnout

Experiences of stress are more common among female employees than among male employees. 15% of female employees experience lot or moderately lot harmful stress, whereas the corresponding figure among male employees is 10%.

Similar to occupational burnout, experiences of harmful stress are also more common among highly educated people. There are almost no differences between age groups.

In the context of the Working Life Barometer, stress refers to situations in which a person feels tense, restless, nervous or anxious, or is unable to sleep because their mind is troubled all the time. The question concerns all experiences of harmful stress, not only work-related stress.

The four key symptoms of occupational burnout are chronic fatigue, mental distancing from work, impairment of cognitive function and difficulties in emotional control. The Working Life Barometer includes a question on how often the respondent experiences these feelings. The questions used for measuring occupational burnout are based on scientific research.

Demand for supporting well-being at work

In addition to the Working Life Barometer study, the increase in psychological stressfulness of work has been evident also in other studies. The follow-up study “How is Finland doing?” by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health demonstrates a slight increase in occupational burnout and a decrease in work ability between summer 2021 and winter 2022.

According to a 2021 study by Statistics Finland, feelings of fatigue and lack of motivation and vigour have grown during COVID-19 compared with the year 2018. An increasing number of people also felt a lack of motivation and psychological fatigue when going to work or when starting remote work.

Well-being at work should be supported as the psychological and social stress factors of work are key to the management of occupational burnout and harmful stress. Increased stress can relate to factors such as the content and organization of work, work arrangements or the functionality of supervisory work and the social relationships within the work community.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment measures changes in work life every year

Every year, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment carries out the Working Life Barometer study to describe the state of Finnish work life at workplaces. The study monitors the views of employees on their work. The results of the study are based on interviews with employees and they are reported in the spring.

In the interviews of employees, the following themes are discussed, for example:

  • personal position in the labour market
  • the digital environment
  • continuous learning at work
  • the organization of working time, remote work and work performance assessment
  • discrimination, bullying, harassment and violence at work
  • work-related stress and work ability
  • work engagement and well-being at work
  • trade union organization


Learn more

The Working Life Barometer in the Work-Life Knowledge service: The Working Life Barometer measures occupational burnout experienced by employees | Work-Life Knowledge | www.tyoelamatieto.fi


Further information

Research Manager Pekka Varje, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 (0)50 576 8236, pekka.varje(at)ttl.fi

Chief Specialist Maija Lyly-Yrjänäinen, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 (0)29 504 7297, maija.lyly-yrjanainen(at)gov.fi



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