AnxietyConflicts between work and home — in both directions — are an important contributor to the risk of burnout, suggests a study in the April Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Dr. Victoria Blom of Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, and colleagues evaluated the relationship between work-home interference and burnout risk in a study of nearly 4,500 Swedish twins. Twin studies provide unique information on familial factors — genetics and early life experiences — affecting health and illness.

Depression & exhaustion

The study looked at two types of work-home interference: work-home conflict, when work demands interfere with home life; and home-work conflict, when private life interferes with work roles. Burnout was defined as depression, emotional exhaustion, and feeling run down.

Women perceived more burnout than men, and also felt slightly more work-home conflict (work demands interfering with work life). Home-work conflict (home demands interfering with work roles) was similar between the sexes.

Direct association found

Both types of work-home interference were related to burnout. On comparisons of twin pairs, genetic factors contributed to the association between home-work conflict and burnout in women. The study also found a "rather direct" association between work-home conflict and burnout, unaffected by age, education, job demands, or children living at home.

Burnout is a major stress-related health problem, especially in women. The new results suggest that work-home interference may be a significant contributor to the risk of burnout.

For employers, taking steps to reduce interference of work demands on private life may help to reduce burnout and other stress-related health problems. However, Dr. Blom and coauthors write, "It is also important for the employees themselves to develop self-regulation strategies to [counter] negative spillover of work at home, such as not working from home." This may be especially important for women, because they perceive more work-home conflict than men.

Citation — Blom V, Sverke M, Bodin L, Bergström G, Lindfors P, Svedberg P. Work–home interference and burnout: a study based on Swedish twins. J Occup Environ Med. 2014; 56(4):361-6.