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Minerva Psichiatrica 2008 December;49(4):255-66


language: Italian

Connection between anxiety and burnout in health professions

Puricelli O. 1, Callegari S. 2, Pavacci V. 2, Caielli A. 2, Raposio E. 2

1 S.S. Psicologia Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro-IST Genova, Italia 2 S.C. Chirurgia Plastica e Ricostruttiva Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro-IST Genova, Italia


Aim. The incidence of alcoholism, cirrhosis, suicide and marital crises among physicians suggests that there is an urgent necessity to examine aetiological and predisposing factors, clinical signs and strategies for managing this form of stress. Some authors have examined stress in the context of the interactions that develop over time between the individual and the environment and in relation to the functioning and balance of three relatively parallel independent systems: the biological, the psychological and the social. In some cases the stress of a system does not transfer to the other two; in other cases the transfer of a stress from one system to the other represents the only variable solution for attenuating the tension of the primarily stressed system and setting up the conditions for the restoration of its balance. That which in any case takes on crucial importance is the ability of the individual to restore the level of functioning and balance of the various stress-troubled systems and hence the possibility of deploying strategies and mechanisms capable of sustaining, attenuating and contrasting (coping mechanism) alterations connected with this disturbance. Burnout is often confused with “anxiety and/or distress reactions” which, however, are not generally so serious as those of burnout. The aim of this study was to verify the hypothesis that there may be a positive correlation between trait anxiety and burnout.
Methods. The investigation was carried out by means of an anonymous, self-compiled questionnaire distributed to all personnel (physicians working in the structure, physicians doing specialisation courses, attending physicians and also students of Medicine) based on two standard models: the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.
Results. The results as regards the relations between anxiety and burnout proved highly significant and the hypothesis that there might be a positive correlation between degree of work burnout and trait anxiety was confirmed.
Conclusion. To conclude, then, according to Maslach and Leiter, in addition to self-improvement, the best way to prevent the state of anxiety and, consequently, burnout, is to promote working commitment. This does not consist simply in reducing the negative aspects of the workplace but in the attempt to increase positive aspects. Positive strategies are those that boost energy, involvement and effectiveness. A preventive approach also constitutes a wise, prudent investment in the future of the organization: to invest in people so that they become well prepared, loyal and dedicated employees on whom it is possible to rely for the carrying out of quality work.

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