Chronic burnout, somatic arousal and elevated salivary cortisol levels

Samuel Melamed, Ursula Ugarten, Arie Shirom, Luna Kahana, Yehuda Lerman, Paul Froom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Burnout syndrome, comprised of the symptoms of emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue, and cognitive weariness, is believed to be a result of ineffective coping with enduring stress. This study of 111 nonshift blue- collar workers free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) examined whether chronic burnout is associated with a state of somatic and physiological hyperarousal. Results showed that 37 workers exhibited symptoms of chronic burnout, with symptoms lasting at least 6 months. These workers, compared to those with no burnout symptoms (n = 52) or nonchronic burnout symptoms (n = 22), had higher levels of tension at work, postwork irritability, more sleep disturbances and complaints of waking up exhausted, and higher cortisol levels during the work day. These results suggest that chronic burnout is associated with heightened somatic arousal and elevated salivary cortisol levels. This may be part of the mechanism underlying the emerging association between burnout and risk of CVD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-598
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1999


  • Burnout
  • Chronic
  • Cortisol
  • Exhaustion
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Stress


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