Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2006;32(5):339-348    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.1029

Do burned-out and work-engaged employees differ in the functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis?

by Langelaan S, Bakker AB, Schaufeli WB, van Rhenen W, van Doornen LJP

Objectives The central aim of the present study was to examine differences in the functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis between 29 burned-out, 33 work-engaged, and 26 healthy reference managers, as identified with the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey and the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale.

Methods All of the managers were employed in a large Dutch telecommunications company. Salivary cortisol was sampled on three consecutive workdays and one nonworkday to determine the cortisol awakening response. Salivary dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS), a cortisol counterbalancing product of the HPA axis, was measured on these days 1 hour after managers awakened. The dexamethasone suppression test was used to investigate the feedback sensitivity of the HPA axis.

Results The morning cortisol levels were higher on the workdays than on the nonworkday, but this effect did not differ between the three groups. The burned-out, work-engaged, and reference groups did not differ in the cortisol and DHEAS levels, the slope of the cortisol awakening response, and the cortisol : DHEAS ratio. The work-engaged group showed a stronger cortisol suppression in response to the dexamethasone suppression test than the other two groups, the finding suggesting higher feedback sensitivity among work-engaged managers.

Conclusions Burned-out and work-engaged managers only differ marginally in HPA-axis functioning.

This article refers to the following text of the Journal: 2001;27(4):279-286
The following article refers to this text: 2006;32(5):333-337