A medical link that should raise red flags for employers and workers’ compensation managers.

Research linking burnout to heart health issues, strokes, blood clots, and other potentially deadly illnesses exposes the risk employees under excessive amounts of stress and exhaustion face. The WHO went so far as to deem burnout an occupational phenomenon. A study conducted by the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology (Jan 2020) looked at the effects of “vital exhaustion” (burnout) on the human body by focusing on a number of factors including anger, antidepressant use, and other factors that influence the condition’s development.  

The study extracted a couple of key findings: inflammation and increased stress hormones are possible links between burnout and heart issues. Burnout increased the risk of developing atrial fibrillation by up to 20% —atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots and is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, and death. It is difficult to detect; many don’t know they have it. Researchers documented a total of 2,200 cases of atrial fibrillation.  

Inflammation, high amounts of stress hormones, and heart conditions are all potential comorbidities for workers’ compensation claims for burnt-out employees. In addition to comorbidities, employee burnout can create exhaustion and stress inhibiting an employee’s judgment-making skills and increasing the chance of accidents and potential worker injury.  

Burnout also creates mental health problems. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in December 2019 that workplace suicides were up 11% since the previous year; the highest recording since the organization began tracking the metric. While burnout and mental health were previously viewed as more of a personal issue rather than a professional issue, the physical health concerns that arise from them are, blatantly evident issues employers, workers’ compensation adjusters, and attorneys need to pay close attention to. Certain types of employees are more susceptible to burnout than others. Employers need to make a point of identifying which employees are at risk to protect their workers from burnout.