Stockholm university

Burnout cause substantial economic fallout affecting women most

A comprehensive study conducted by researchers at Stockholm University and the Stockholm School of Economics sheds light on the profound economic implications of stress-induced occupational illnesses, particularly burnout.

Tired woman with computer
The study underscores the critical role of firms in shaping work conditions. Photo: Lightpoet/Mostphotos

Utilizing extensive data spanning from 2006 to 2020, the research delves into the nexus between workplace stress, burnout, and its far-reaching consequences on individuals and their families. The research, which examines burnout as a medically diagnosed condition, reveals alarming statistics regarding its prevalence and impact. Burnout, characterized by emotional depletion and reduced commitment, disproportionately affects workers with low stress tolerance, with women being three times more vulnerable. The economic fallout is substantial, with lasting earnings decreases observed across genders. Additionally, burnout reverberates through the family unit, leading to reduced spousal income and hindering children's educational attainment.


Decreased national labor income

One of the study's key findings is the detrimental effect of burnout on national labor income, resulting in a 2.3 percent decrease in 2019 alone. This economic toll encompasses various factors such as sick leaves, diminished earnings, and broader societal repercussions. The study underscores the urgency of incorporating estimated costs and predictive models based on self-reported stress levels into prevention programs to mitigate the escalating crisis.

By examining the correlation between workplace stress and burnout, the study underscores the critical role of firms in shaping work conditions. It highlights how transitioning to firms with higher burnout risks exacerbates the likelihood of burnout, emphasizing the need for targeted interventions at the organizational level.


Women most affected

Moreover, the research elucidates the profound gender disparities in burnout risk, with women, particularly single mothers, bearing the brunt of its consequences. Burnout leads to a significant and enduring income loss, primarily driven by transitions to part-time roles or workforce exits.

”This exploration into the intergenerational impact of burnout unveils its adverse effects on spousal labor market outcomes, fertility, separations, and children's educational prospects. Burnout not only jeopardizes individual well-being but also undermines family stability and children's future prospects,” says Josef Sigurdsson, Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, Stockholm University and one of the researchers behind the study.


Prevention is key

“More proactive measures to prevent burnout are needed, stressing the importance of identifying at-risk individuals and implementing preventive programs. Surveys on workplace stress emerge as valuable tools for early detection, with the integration of self-reported stress data enhancing prediction accuracy,” says Arash Nekoei, Associate Professor at Institute of International Economic Studies, Stockholm University and one of the researchers behind the study.

As the labor market evolves and stress levels escalate, the study calls for further research into the economic dimensions of work-related stress and burnout. Addressing this multifaceted issue requires a concerted effort to safeguard individual well-being, preserve family stability, and sustain economic prosperity.

Read the paper The Economic Burden of Burnout

Also read: The economics of burnout in VoxEU

Text: Hanna Weitz