Prevalence and determinants of burnout among physical and occupational therapists

J Allied Health. 2002 Fall;31(3):131-9.


It is generally speculated that the ongoing changes in the health care system may increase the incidence of burnout among health care providers. The purposes of this cross-sectional study were to determine (1) the prevalence of burnout among physical therapists (PTs) and occupational therapists (OTs), (2) sociodemographic and work-related factors associated with emotional exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP), and personal achievement (PA) traits of PTs and OTs. In fall 1998, 169 PTs and 138 OTs employed in various clinical settings in New York City completed the survey. Part I of the research questionnaire solicited sociodemographic and work-related information such as age, marital status, number of children (NC), religious affiliation (RA), exercise habits, level of support from supervisor (LSS), and level of support from colleagues (LSC). Part II of the questionnaire contained the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). From the MBI, each subject's EE, DP, and PA scores were obtained. The data were analyzed with oneway analysis of variance and linear, multiple, and stepwise regression models to determine the relative and combined contributions of the independent (sociodemographic and work-related) variables toward predicting EE, DP, and PA. Overall the MBI scores revealed high (28.9 +/- 6.8) EE, high (18.3 +/- 4.7) DP, and low (18.0 +/- 7.0) PA. The contribution of sociodemographic and work-related variables toward the prediction of EE (26.7%), DP (12.8%) and PA (19.8%) was minimal. Of the 20 independent variables examined in this study, only 3 (LSS, NC and RA) were viable predictors of EE. The only viable predictor of PA trait was LSC. None of the variables examined accurately predicted DP trait. The EE, DP, and PA scores of the PTs and OTs in this study were higher than the norms reported in previous studies for the general population and other human service professionals, including PTs and OTs. The findings suggest the need for reorganization of the work environment to address the stressors responsible for burnout in this cohort of therapists.

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Allied Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Occupational Health*
  • Occupational Therapy*
  • Physical Therapy Specialty*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce
  • Workload