Relatively little is known about cognitive performance in burnout. The aim of the present study was to further our knowledge on this topic by examining, in one study, cognitive performance in both clinical and non-clinical burnout while focusing on three interrelated aspects of cognitive performance, namely, self-reported cognitive problems, cognitive test performance, and subjective costs associated with cognitive test performance. To this aim, a clinical burnout patient group (n=33), a non-clinical burnout group (n=29), and a healthy control group (n=30) were compared on self-reported cognitive problems, assessed by a questionnaire, as well as on cognitive test performance, assessed with a cognitive test battery measuring both executive functioning and more general cognitive processing. Self-reported fatigue, motivation, effort and demands were assessed to compare the different groups on subjective costs associated with cognitive test performance. The results indicated that the clinical burnout patients reported more cognitive problems than the individuals with non-clinical burnout, who in turn reported more cognitive problems relative to the healthy controls. Evidence for impaired cognitive test performance was only found in the clinical burnout patients. Relative to the healthy controls, these patients displayed some evidence of impaired general cognitive processing, reflected in slower reaction times, but no impaired executive functioning. However, cognitive test performance of the clinical burnout patients was related to larger reported subjective costs. In conclusion, although both the clinical and the non-clinical burnout group reported cognitive problems, evidence for a relatively mild impaired cognitive test performance and larger reported subjective cost associated with cognitive test performance was only found for the clinical burnout group.

Chronic stress, Cognition, Cognitive functioning, Emotional exhaustion, Executive control, Executive functioning, Fatigue, Work stress,
Department of Psychology

Oosterholt, B.G, Maes, J.H.R, van der Linden, D, Verbraak, M.J.P.M, & Kompier, M.A.J. (2014). Cognitive performance in both clinical and non-clinical burnout. Stress, 17(5), 400–409. doi:10.3109/10253890.2014.949668