Background. Research on risk factors for burnout has mainly focused on circumstances at work and on personal characteristics. The aim of this study was to investigate whether burnout clusters within families and, if so, whether this is due to genetic influences or to environmental factors shared by family members. Finally, we tried to identify specific risk factors for burnout.
Method. In 2707 twins, 736 of their siblings and 575 of their spouses from a population-based twin-family sample, burnout was measured using a self-report questionnaire. Correlations in burnout scores were obtained for monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs and sibling pairs conditional on the pairs' sex. Correlations for twins and their spouses were derived conditional on the length of the relationship.
Results. In the final model, correlations of the monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs and sibling pairs were significantly different from zero, but not significantly different from each other. The correlation was estimated at 0·22. The correlation between spouses was also significant. This was mainly due to the group with a relationship longer than 5 years in which the correlation was 0·24. Burnout scores were higher in subjects whose parents had a high level of education.
Conclusions. There is familial clustering for burnout due to environmental factors shared by family members, explaining 22% of the variance. Genetic factors do not seem to be of importance. The significant correlation between spouses supports the conclusion that common environment plays a role in burnout. A high parental education is one of the familial risk factors.