Occupational burnout, eating behavior, and weight among working women

Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Apr;95(4):934-43. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.014191. Epub 2012 Feb 29.


Background: Eating behavior affects weight and thus the development of obesity. Studies on the effect of occupational burnout (exhaustive fatigue, cynicism, and lost occupational self-respect caused by chronic work stress) on eating behavior are lacking.

Objective: The objective was to investigate associations between occupational burnout, eating behavior, and weight among working women.

Design: A total of 230 working women participated in a randomized controlled intervention trial (Nuadu) that aimed at changing the health behaviors of those with health risks. We assessed eating behavior using the Three-Factor Eating Behavior Questionnaire 18 and burnout using the Bergen Burnout Indicator 15 at both baseline and 12 mo. Body weight and percentage body fat were also measured at baseline and at 12 mo. The intervention and control groups were combined and divided by burnout and weight-change variables.

Results: Women experiencing burnout at baseline had significantly higher scores in emotional eating (EE; P = 0.002) and uncontrolled eating (UE; P = 0.001) than did those without burnout. A significant difference was found between the change in UE from baseline to 12 mo in those with and without burnout (P = 0.05). UE decreased significantly among those without burnout at baseline (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Those experiencing burnout may be more vulnerable to EE and UE and have a hindered ability to make changes in their eating behavior. We recommend that burnout should be treated first and that burnout and eating behavior should be evaluated in obesity treatment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Burnout, Professional / therapy*
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Overnutrition / pathology
  • Overnutrition / prevention & control
  • Overnutrition / psychology*
  • Overweight / pathology
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Overweight / psychology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy, Group*