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Occup Med (Lond). 2018 May 23;68(4):246-254. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqy033.

Age, burnout and physical and psychological work ability among nurses.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.
Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Berlin, Germany.
Institute for Clinical Epidemiology and Applied Biostatistics, University Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.



The ageing of the US labour force highlights the need to examine older adults' physical and psychological ability to work, under varying levels of occupational burnout.


To examine how age and burnout interact in predicting physical and psychological work ability.


Using a cohort of actively working nurses, we assessed factors on the Work Ability Index at 12-month follow-up and determined how these were related to age and exhaustion-related burnout at baseline.


The study group consisted of 402 nurses aged 25-67 (mean = 41.7). Results indicated age by burnout interactions in which decrements in physical work ability with greater age were observed at all but the lowest level of burnout (1.5 SD below mean: β = -0.14, 95% CI -0.36, 0.07; 1 SD below: β = -0.23, 95% CI -0.39, -0.06; mean: β = -0.39, 95% CI -0.50, -0.29; 1 SD above: β = -0.56, 95% CI -0.70, -0.42; 1.5 SD above: β = -0.64, 95% CI -0.83, -0.46). In contrast, we observed decrements in psychological work ability with age at higher levels of burnout only (1 SD above: β = -0.20, 95% CI -0.35, -0.05; 1.5 SD above: β = -0.30, 95% CI -0.49, -0.11); at lower levels of burnout, older age was associated with improvements in this (1 SD below: β = 0.19, 95% CI 0.03, 0.35; 1.5 SD below: β = 0.29, 95% CI 0.08, 0.50).


Findings indicated physical and psychological dimensions of work ability that differed by age and occupational burnout. This emphasizes the need for interventions to reduce burnout and to address age-related strengths and vulnerabilities relating to physical and psychological work ability.

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