Self-reported cognitive impairment and daily life functioning 7-12 years after seeking care for stress-related exhaustion

Scand J Psychol. 2021 Aug;62(4):484-492. doi: 10.1111/sjop.12722. Epub 2021 Mar 17.


The overall aim of this study was to investigate self-reported cognitive difficulties, daily life activities, and health/sleep factors in former patients with exhaustion disorder (ED) who still fulfill the clinical criteria for exhaustion 7-12 years after seeking care. The Sahlgrenska Self-reported Cognitive Impairment Questionnaire (SASCI-Q) was used to measure cognitive difficulties, daily life activities, and health/sleep factors. Three groups were compared: previous patients still judged to be clinically exhausted seven years or more after seeking care (n = 51); previous patients considered clinically recovered (n = 98); and healthy controls (n = 50). Patients who still fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for ED reported widespread problems related to cognition, fatigue, and daily life functioning compared to the clinically recovered group. Furthermore, despite no longer fulfilling the clinical criteria, the recovered patients still reported more problems related to cognitive functioning and fatigue compared to healthy controls. Thus, this group appeared intermediary between the non-recovered group and healthy controls regarding self-reported cognitive functioning. To conclude, ED may have considerable negative long-term effects, and it is possible that some of these residual symptoms, particularly the cognitive problems and persistent fatigue, are permanent in some patients. Preventive measures should be the primary focus for all stakeholders, since the consequences of stress-related mental health problems seem to be extensive and long-lasting.

Keywords: Burnout; cognition; exhaustion disorder; perceived health; self-report; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis*
  • Diagnostic Self Evaluation*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Sweden
  • Time Factors