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Are you at risk of burnout? Take the 23-question test devised by scientists to find out


Short bursts of stress, exhaustion and disinterest are common in every job.

But how do you know you’re in danger of burn-out from that very pressure?

Researchers in Norway have now created a simple 23-question test that claims to reveal who is at risk.

The quiz prompts people to rank their feelings towards work from ‘never’ to ‘always’ through statements covering energy levels, motivation and emotions.

Rather than a medical problem, burnout is a feeling of mental or physical exhaustion and is the body’s response to a lasting, demanding situation, the researchers said.

For some people, burnout can be stopped in its tracks through tweaks that ease job pressures, such as reducing workload, taking annual leave and prioritising sleep.

But others can struggle for years if the root cause isn’t tackled. 

The burnout quiz prompts people to rank their feelings towards work from 'never' to 'always' through statements covering energy levels, motivation and emotions

The burnout quiz prompts people to rank their feelings towards work from ‘never’ to ‘always’ through statements covering energy levels, motivation and emotions

Statements fell into four different areas, including exhaustion ('I lack the energy to start a new day at work), mental distancing ('I feel indifferent about my job'), cognitive impairment ('I'm forgetful and distracted at work') and emotional impairment ('I get upset or sad at work without knowing why')

Statements fell into four different areas, including exhaustion (‘I lack the energy to start a new day at work), mental distancing (‘I feel indifferent about my job’), cognitive impairment (‘I’m forgetful and distracted at work’) and emotional impairment (‘I get upset or sad at work without knowing why’)

Burnout is then ranked on a scale from 'very low' to 'very high' based on responses from others in that person's country

Burnout is then ranked on a scale from ‘very low’ to ‘very high’ based on responses from others in that person’s country

There is no single international test used to assess burnout, with medics using varying questionnaires that use different metrics.

This led a team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, led by Leon De Beer, associate professor of work and organisational psychology, to create a new  burnout assessment tool to spot those suffering the early symptoms.

What are the signs of burnout? 

According to the WHO, someone with burnout is exhausted, mentally detached from their work, and is no longer productive.

Dr Aria Campbell-Danesh, a clinical psychologist, said: ‘Burnout is related to job stress and an imbalance at work.

‘It’s experiencing high job demands, without adequate resources to manage those demands.’

The result is that ‘you feel overwhelmed and so drained that you are unable to keep meeting the constant demands you are facing and are unable to do your job effectively’, said Dr Sarah Brewer, medical nutritionist at Healthspan.

She added: ‘Burnout is mainly associated with emotional symptoms in which you become detached and disengaged – you feel empty, hopeless and helpless with little motivation to do anything.’

Gillian McMichael, a transformational coach and meditation teacher from Edinburgh, said physical symptoms can present too, ‘such as headaches, stomach aches, a bad back or trouble sleeping’.

She said: ‘The earliest symptoms are just feeling pretty tired and rundown. You might notice that you get more coughs and colds, or aches and pains.

‘It could be feeling more anxious than normal, irritable, and less tolerant of the things that you might be tolerant about before. You might be lacking in self-care, which can show up in appearance.’

Difficulty getting out of bed and bingeing TV series may be more subtle signs, Ms McMichael said.

She added: ‘There is a critical ticking point where you can catch burnout and do something about it before it moves into something more serious, such as depression.’

They reviewed 12 existing tests as part of the process and narrowed their quiz down to 23 statements with multiple-choice answers ranging from ‘never’ to ‘always’.

Statements fell into four different areas, including exhaustion (‘I lack the energy to start a new day at work), mental distancing (‘I feel indifferent about my job’), cognitive impairment (‘I’m forgetful and distracted at work’) and emotional impairment (‘I get upset or sad at work without knowing why’). 

Burnout is then ranked on a scale from ‘very low’ to ‘very high’ based on responses from others in that person’s country.

To test whether the tool worked, the researchers recruited 493 workers, aged 45 on average, who completed it.

Results showed that 12.9 per cent of volunteers were at high risk of burnout — thought to be lower than in other EU countries, as the nation has a better work-life balance, according to the researchers. 

They said the test works across cultures and genders but does not provide a formal diagnosis or medical advice.

Those worried about their work-related stress should visit a doctor, they added. 

The team concluded that feeling mentally exhausted, struggling to be enthusiastic, difficulties concentrating and overreacting without meaning to, consistently over a period of weeks, are hallmarks of burnout. 

They said that identifying the early signs before they have gone too far is key to reducing the risk of harmful knock-on effects, such as cardiovascular disease, joint pain, sleeping problems and depression. 

The researchers are now testing the tool in more than 30 countries, which will reveal which nations have the highest prevalence of burnout.

Mr De Beer said: ‘Our studies show that BAT (the name of the test) is a good tool for identifying the risk of burnout.’

The tool can identify who requires the most urgent care so that the risk of burnout can be reduced, the team said.

Professor Marit Christensen, a professor of work and organisational psychology, added: ‘We can deal with burnout through individual treatment.

‘But it is of little use if people return to a workplace where the demands are too high and there are few resources.

‘It is then highly likely that the employee will become ill again. 

‘Therefore, it is important to create good working conditions and structures that safeguard the health of employees.’



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