A longitudinal study on cortisol and complaint reduction in burnout.Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2006 Aug; 31(7):793-804.P
Several studies have investigated the association between burnout and HPA-axis functioning, but the results are far from consistent. This does not preclude the possibility that within a group of burnout patients a recovery of symptoms in a longitudinal course corresponds to (changes in) cortisol parameters. The latter possibility is tested in the present study before and after treatment, and at follow-up. HPA-axis functioning and burnout complaints were assessed in burned-out participants at baseline (n=74), post-treatment (n=62) and at follow-up (n=53). Multilevel regression analysis was used to test the hypothesis. Burnout complaints were significantly reduced at 8.5 months post-treatment, but there was no further reduction in complaints at follow-up 6.3 months later. Cortisol after awakening, and after dexamethasone intake showed no changes from baseline to post-treatment and follow-up. There was a small decline in cortisol during the day over the longitudinal course. The cortisol level after awakening in the longitudinal course showed significant positive association with the initial exhaustion level, a negative association with the change in the burnout exhaustion score, and a positive association with the change in depression. Although these associations are statistically significant, they only explain a small fraction of the variance in cortisol after awakening between and within persons. This implies that changes at symptom level are hardly related to changes in cortisol functioning, therefore the clinical implications of this finding are limited.