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Simple spit and blood tests might detect burnout before it happens
Date:2/21/2011

s. Complementary use of saliva samples and validated questionnaires allows us to go beyond measuring susceptibilities to, say, metabolic syndromes or heart problems, but also into the realm of mental health," Juster said.

The results of this first pilot study were obtained by testing thirty middle-aged participants. In addition to undergoing routine blood measures that assessed allostatic load, participants were instructed to collect saliva at home and during a laboratory paradigm. They also filled out questionnaires related to their current stress levels as well as symptoms of depression and burnout.

This research is part of a greater effort to develop personalized medicine in this field. Personalized medicine targets the customization of treatment according to the needs of the individual. "In an effort to advance person-centered approaches in prevention and treatment strategies, we have to investigate the biopsychosocial signatures of specific diseases," Lupien said. "For conditions like burnout where we have no consensus on diagnostic criteria and where there is overlap with symptoms of depression, it is essential to use multiple methods of analysis. One potential signature of burnout appears to be fatigued production of the stress hormone cortisol and dysregulations of the physiological systems that interact with this stress hormone."

Critically, people with burnout are often treated with anti-depressant medications that lower cortisol levels. If cortisol is already lower than it should be, this course of treatment could represent a therapeutic mistake. "The use of an allostatic load index gives researchers and clinicians a window to see how chronic stress is straining the person. In the future, we need studies that track people over time to determine whether this profile of low cortisol and physiological dysregulations is indeed burnout's autograph. If so, science will be one step closer to helping distressed workers before they burn ou
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Contact: William Raillant-Clark
w.raillant-clark@umontreal.ca
514-343-7593
University of Montreal
Source:Eurekalert

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