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Open Access Research article

Development of burnout over time and the causal order of the three dimensions of burnout among male and female GPs. A three-wave panel study

Inge Houkes1*, Yvonne Winants2, Mascha Twellaar2 and Petra Verdonk3

Author Affiliations

1 Maastricht University, Researchschool CAPHRI, Department of Social Medicine, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands

2 Maastricht University, Researchschool CAPHRI, Department of General Practice, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands

3 Maastricht University, Researchschool CAPHRI, Department of Genetics and Cell Biology, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:240  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-240

Published: 18 April 2011

Abstract

Background

A good understanding of the aetiology and development of burnout facilitates its early recognition, prevention and treatment. Since the prevalence and onset of this health problem is thought to differ between men and women, sex must be taken into account. This study aims to assess the prevalence and development of burnout among General Practitioners (GPs). In this population the prevalence of burnout is high.

Methods

We performed a three-wave longitudinal study (2002, 2004, 2006) in a random sample of Dutch GPs. Data were collected by means of self-report questionnaires including the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Our final sample consisted of 212 GPs of which 128 were male. Data were analyzed by means of SPSS and LISREL.

Results

Results indicate that about 20% of the GPs is clinically burned out (but still working). For both sexes, burnout decreased after the first wave, but increased again after the second wave. The prevalence of depersonalization is higher among men. With regard to the process of burnout we found that for men burnout is triggered by depersonalization and by emotional exhaustion for women.

Conclusions

As regards the developmental process of burnout, we found evidence for the fact that the aetiological process of burnout, that is the causal order of the three burnout dimensions, differs between men and women. These sex differences should be taken into account in vocational training and policy development, especially since general practice is feminizing rapidly.