Open Access Research article

Understanding burnout according to individual differences: ongoing explanatory power evaluation of two models for measuring burnout types

Jesús Montero-Marín167, Ricardo Araya2, Barbara Olivan Blazquez37, Petros Skapinakis4, Vicente Martinez Vizcaino57 and Javier García-Campayo67*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Health Sciences and Sports, University of Zaragoza, Huesca, Spain

2 School of Community and Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom

3 Faculty of Social and Labour, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain

4 Department of Psychiatry, University of Ioannina School of Medicine, Ioannina, Greece

5 Health and Social Research Center, Castilla-La Mancha University, Cuenca, Spain

6 Department of Psychiatry, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain

7 REDIAPP “Red de Investigación en Actividades Preventivas y Promoción de la Salud”, (Research Network on Preventative Activities and Health Promotion) (RD06/0018/0017), Avda Gomez Laguna 52, 4D, Zaragoza, 50.009, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:922  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-922

Published: 30 October 2012



The classic determination of burnout is by means of the dimensions exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy. A new definition of the syndrome is based on clinical subtypes, consisting of “frenetic” (involved, ambitious, overloaded), “underchallenged” (indifferent, bored, with lack of personal development) and “worn-out” (neglectful, unacknowledged, with little control). The dimensions of overload, lack of development and neglect form a shortened version of this perspective. The aims of this study were to estimate and to compare the explanatory power of both typological models, short and long, with the standard measurement.


This was a cross-sectional survey with a randomly sample of university employees (n=409). Multivariate linear regression models were constructed between the “Maslach Burnout Inventory General Survey” (MBI-GS) dimensions, as dependent variables, and the “Burnout Clinical Subtype Questionnaire” (BCSQ-36 and BCSQ-12) dimensions, as independent variables.


The BCSQ-36 subscales together explained 53% of ‘exhaustion’ (p<0.001), 59% of ‘cynicism’ (p<0.001) and 37% of ‘efficacy’ (p<0.001), while BCSQ-12 subscales explained 44% of ‘exhaustion’ (p<0.001), 44% of ‘cynicism’ (p<0.001), and 30% of ‘efficacy’ (p<0.001). The difference in the explanatory power of both models was significant for ‘exhaustion’ (p<0.001), and for ‘cynicism’ (p<0.001) and ‘efficacy (p<0.001).


Both BCSQ-36 and BCSQ-12 demonstrate great explanatory power over the standard MBI-GS, while offering a useful characterization of the syndrome for the evaluation and design of interventions tailored to the characteristics of each individual. The BCSQ-36 may be very useful in mental health services, given that it provides a good deal of information, while the BCSQ-12 could be used as a screening measure in primary care consultations owing to its simplicity and functional nature.

Burnout; Subtypes; Explanatory power; BCSQ-36; BCSQ-12; MBI-GS