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J Occup Health. 2016;58(1):89-95. doi: 10.1539/joh.15-0157-OA. Epub 2015 Nov 21.

Task-related increases in fatigue predict recovery time after academic stress.

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Department of Environmental Health, Center for Public Health, Medical University of Vienna.



The aim of this study was to investigate the time course of recovery after an academic exam as a model of high workload and its association with stress-related fatigue.


Thirty-six medical students (17 females, 19 males) filled out diaries during an exam phase, starting 2 days prior to the exam, and a control phase 4 weeks after the exam for 14 days, respectively. Fatigue, distress, quality of sleep, and health complaints were assessed. Recovery time was determined for each individual and variable by comparing the 3-day average with the confidence interval of the control phase. Recovery time was predicted by Cox regression analyses.


Recovery times of all variables except health complaints were predicted by stress-related fatigue. Half of the individuals had recovered after 6 days, and 80% of the individuals had recovered after 8 days.


The time necessary for recovery from work demands is determined by fatigue as a measure of resource depletion.

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