INTRODUCTION: Effort-reward imbalance (ERI) and work-life imbalance (WLI) are recognised risk factors for work stress and burnout but have not been investigated conjointly so far and compared with each other in this regard. The present cross-sectional study provides initial evidence by studying associations of ERI and WLI with general stress and burnout simultaneously.
METHODS: The study was based on survey data collected in 2007 among the personnel of a large public hospital in the canton of Zurich covering a random sample of 502 employees of all professions and positions. Prevalence rates, correlation coefficients, standardised regression coefficients and odds ratios were calculated as measures of association.
RESULTS: Concerning the main research question and relating to the entire study sample, WLI was found to be more strongly associated with general stress and burnout than ERI. As stratified analyses with regard to burnout have shown, this applied especially to nursing, technical care and emergency staffs who account for more than three fifths of the study population. But for other professional categories like physicians, therapists and medical-technical personnel the opposite of a stronger association of ERI with burnout was found. Results also suggested that general stress plays a (rather minor) mediating role in the relationships between ERI and burnout and particularly between WLI and burnout.
CONCLUSION: For the prevention of chronic stress and burnout one should consider both high efforts put into work as well as all job demands that are competing and interfering with family responsibilities or other private activities should be considered.