Burnout among employees in human service work: design and baseline findings of the PUMA study

Scand J Public Health. 2006;34(1):49-58. doi: 10.1080/14034940510032275.


Aim: To present the theoretical framework, design, methods, and baseline findings of the first Danish study on determinants and consequences of burnout, and the impact of workplace interventions in human service work organizations.

Method: A 5-year prospective intervention study comprising 2,391 employees from different organizations in the human service sector: social security offices, psychiatric prison, institutions for severely disabled, hospitals, and homecare services. Data were collected at baseline and at two follow-ups. The authors developed a new burnout tool (the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory) covering work-related, client-related, and personal burnout. The study includes potential determinants of burnout (e.g. the psychosocial work environment, social relations outside work, lifestyle factors, and personality aspects) and consequences of burnout (e.g. poor health, low job satisfaction, turnover, and absenteeism). Here, the focus is on the description of the study population at baseline, including associations of work burnout with psychosocial work environment scales and absence.

Results: Response rate at baseline was 80.1%. Midwives and homecare workers had high levels on both work- and client-related burnout. Prison officers had the highest level on client-related burnout. Supervisors and office assistants had low levels on both scales. Work burnout showed the highest correlations with job satisfaction (r = -0.51), quantitative demands (r = 0.48), role-conflicts (r = 0.44), and emotional demands (r = 0.42). Sickness absence was 13.9 vs 6.0 days among participants in the highest and lowest work burnout quartile, respectively.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that study design and methods are adequate for the upcoming prospective analyses of aetiology and consequences of burnout and of the impact of workplace interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel / psychology
  • Burnout, Professional* / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional* / etiology
  • Burnout, Professional* / psychology
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Home Health Aides / psychology
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Nurse Midwives / psychology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Aides / psychology
  • Sick Leave
  • Social Environment
  • Social Work
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workplace*