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Sexes differ in response to burnout on the job and depression

A recent study that has been conducted to understand how the sexes differ in stress management reveals that men and women differ in their inflammatory reactions to work-related burnout and depression.// With this in mind, different strategies would have to be devised to enable stress management in either sex.

It has also been shown that work-related burnout can lead to inflammatory processes, which plays a key role in the initiation and progression of cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory-linked illness.

Women who experience job burnout and men who experience depression were found to have increased levels of two inflammation biomarkers – fibrinogen and C-reactive protein (CRP). Both of these biomarkers have been associated with an increased risk of future cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The study looked into micro-inflammation blood markers and levels of burnout, depression and anxiety in 630 healthy, employed women and 933 healthy, employed men to determine which emotions are more likely to present more problems for each sex. Blood levels of CRP and fibrinogen concentrations were used to measure levels of micro-inflammation.

Fibrinogen is a blood-clotting factor that responds to vascular and tissue injury and CRP is a complex set of proteins produced when the body is dealing with a major infection or trauma. In addition, the participants were also evaluated for depression (generalized distress encompassing all life domains), burnout (depletion of an individual's energetic resources at work) and anxiety (experience of a negatively-toned arousal).

The women in the study who scored higher on burnout scores had a 1.6 fold risk of having an elevated level of CRP, and elevated levels of fibrinogen compared with their non-burned out counterparts. Whereas the men in the study who scored higher on depression scores had a 3.15 fold risk of having an elevated level of CRP, and elevated levels of fibrinogen compared to the non-depressed men.

These results suggest that the burned-out women and depressed men are at a greater risk for future inflammation-related diseases, like diabetes, heart disease and strokes compared with their non-burned out and non-depressed counterparts.

Even though burnout and depression affect men and women differently, the health consequences end up being the same. This information can be used to help medical and mental health professionals design more appropriate stress management interventions for each sex and hopefully prevent long-lasting health consequences.

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