Coping with stress and types of burnout: explanatory power of different coping strategies

PLoS One. 2014 Feb 13;9(2):e89090. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089090. eCollection 2014.


Background: Burnout occurs when professionals use ineffective coping strategies to try to protect themselves from work-related stress. The dimensions of 'overload', 'lack of development' and 'neglect', belonging to the 'frenetic', 'under-challenged' and 'worn-out' subtypes, respectively, comprise a brief typological definition of burnout. The aim of the present study was to estimate the explanatory power of the different coping strategies on the development of burnout subtypes.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey with a random sample of university employees, stratified by occupation (n = 429). Multivariate linear regression models were constructed between the 'Burnout Clinical Subtypes Questionnaire', with its three dimensions -overload, lack of development and neglect- as dependent variables, and the 'Coping Orientation for Problem Experiences', with its fifteen dimensions, as independent variables. Adjusted multiple determination coefficients and beta coefficients were calculated to evaluate and compare the explanatory capacity of the different coping strategies.

Results: The 'Coping Orientation for Problem Experiences' subscales together explained 15% of the 'overload' (p<0.001), 9% of the 'lack of development' (p<0.001), and 21% of the 'neglect' (p<0.001). 'Overload' was mainly explained by 'venting of emotions' (Beta = 0.34; p<0.001); 'lack of development' by 'cognitive avoidance' (Beta = 0.21; p<0.001); and 'neglect' by 'behavioural disengagement' (Beta = 0.40; p<0.001). Other interesting associations were observed.

Conclusions: These findings further our understanding of the way in which the effectiveness of interventions for burnout may be improved, by influencing new treatments and preventive programmes using features of the strategies for handling stress in the workplace.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities*
  • Workforce
  • Workplace / psychology

Grant support

This study was possible as a result of the support received from the Research Network on Preventative Activities and Health Promotion (RD06/0018/0017) and the Health Sciences Institute of Aragon (IACS). MMPD is grateful to the CNPq - Brazilian National Council for Research and Technology Development - for a postdoctoral fellowship (Science without Borders Program). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.