Social Work, stress and burnout: A review
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Stress and burnout for health care professionals have received increasing attention in the literature. Significant administrative, societal and political changes have impacted on the role of workers and the responsibilities they are expected to assume. Most writers suggest that social work is a highly stressful occupation, with stress deriving in particular from role conflict between client advocacy and meeting agency needs. This article reviewed the social work literature with two questions in mind: Are social workers subject to greater stress than other health professionals? What factors contribute to stress and burnout among social workers? We found that most of the literature was either anecdotal or compared social worker stress with general population norms rather than with stress levels of workers in comparable professions. Such empirical research as is available suggests that social workers may experience higher levels of stress and resulting burnout than comparable occupational groups. Factors identified as contributing to stress and burnout included the nature of social work practice, especially tension between philosophy and work demands and the organization of the work environment. There was some evidence that supervision and team support are protective factors.
Journal of Mental health