Quite the contrary, males are at highest risk of burnout in the beginning of the career
There is a mounting body of work researching the link between gender and stress, and it is well-documented that men and women are differentially exposed to work stressors. Also, they are affected in different ways, with a toll being higher for female employees. However, until now the relationship between age and gender and burnout remained unknown.
To reveal the contribution of age and gender to burnout, A Marchand, M-E Blanc, and N Beauregard surveyed 2,000 Canadian workers from private sector over the course of three years. As burnout is usually viewed as a multidimensional phenomenon encompassing emotional exhaustion, cynicism and reduced professional efficacy, they studied how age and gender are linked to each of these three burnout components.
As expected, the study revealed huge impact of gender on associations between age and burnout. For men, burnout level as well as emotional exhaustion, cynicism and reduced professional efficacy was at its highest in the beginning of the career and steadily declined over time. As researchers suggests, it may be explained by the career progression, associated with better working conditions, higher decision authority and level of control, as well as lower psychological-physical demands, job insecurity and irregular work schedules.
In contrast to men, women's susceptibility to burnout was at its lowest level in the beginning of the career, but then increased until age 30 to 35. Between ages 35 and 55, burnout symptoms were lower, only to increase sharply after age 55. The researchers explain this dynamics with work-family conflicts: women are more likely to do the second shift of childcare and their stress level is at its highest when the children are little and tend to decrease as children age. Later in their lives, more women than men become caregivers to an elderly relative and younger women may feel additional pressure from their retired spouses. Another factor to consider is the gender gap in the workplace: women may not experience the same level of career progression and thus end up in the less beneficial work conditions than men.
The study suggests that the employee wellbeing policy should be drafted with consideration of how age and gender contribute to burnout. Younger men and women, and older women who are the most susceptible to burnout, could potentially benefit from workplace mental health surveillance programmes.