Job Satisfaction and Cortisol Awakening Response in Teachers Scoring High and Low on Burnout

By Moya-Albiol, Luis; Serrano, Miguel Ángel et al. | The Spanish Journal of Psychology, July 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Job Satisfaction and Cortisol Awakening Response in Teachers Scoring High and Low on Burnout


Moya-Albiol, Luis, Serrano, Miguel Ángel, Salvador, Alicia, The Spanish Journal of Psychology


The burnout syndrome is an important psychosocial risk in the job context, especially in professions with a strong social interaction, as in the case of teaching. High levels of burnout have been related to negative psychological indicators and hormonal alterations. This study compares job satisfaction and the cortisol awakening response (CAR) in teachers scoring high (HB) and low (LB) on burnout. HB teachers showed lower job satisfaction and no significant differences in the CAR when compared with the LB group. The results of the study suggest a general dissatisfaction with work along with a different functioning of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical axis in HB teachers. Although non significantly, they showed a lower magnitude of the CAR than LB teachers. When considering the whole sample, emotional exhaustion and depersonalization correlated negatively and personal accomplishment positively with each subscale of the job satisfaction questionnaire whereas cortisol levels or CAR did not correlate significantly with both burnout subscales and job satisfaction. These results should be taken into account when working to prevent burnout in teachers, as the modified parameters could be considered indicators of the onset or development of the syndrome.

Keywords: burnout, job satisfaction, awakening cortisol response, teachers, experiment.

El síndrome de estar quemado o burnout es un factor importante de riesgo psicosocial en el contexto laboral, especialmente en profesiones que tienen una alta interacción social, como es el caso de la enseñanza. En este sentido, altos niveles de burnout han sido asociados a indicadores psicológicos negativos y a alteraciones hormonales. El objetivo de este trabajo es comparar la satifacción laboral y la respuesta matutina de cortisol en profesores con altas y bajas puntuaciones en burnout. Los profesores con altas puntuaciones en burnout mostraron menor satisfacción laboral que los de puntuaciones bajas, aunque no se encontraron diferencias significativas en la respuesta matutina de cortisol. Estos resultados sugieren que los profesores con altas puntuaciones en burnout tienen una estado general de insatisfacción en el trabajo, junto a una ligera alteración del funcionamiento del eje hipotálamo-hipófiso-adrenal, ya que aunque las diferencias no alcanzaron la significación estadística, estos profesores mostraron menor respuesta matutina de cortisol que los de puntuaciones bajas. Al considerar toda la muestra, las subescalas de despersonalización y cinismo se asociaron negativamente mientras que la de eficacia profesional lo hizo positivamente con la satisfacción laboral. Por otro lado, no se obtuvieron correlaciones significativas entre los niveles de cortisol o la CAR y las diferentes subescalas de burnout o la satisfacción laboral. Estos resultados tienen que ser tenidos en cuenta para trabajar en la prevención de burnout en profesores, ya que los parámetros alterados podrían ser considerados como indicadores de la aparición o desarrollo del síndrome.

Palabras clave: burnout, satisfacción laboral, respuesta matutina de cortisol, profesores, experimento.

Burnout produces a high rate of absenteeism in teachers and includes a large number of physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms can be categorized as excessive exhaustion, a cynical work attitude and feelings of reduced competence (Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001). After carrying out a meta-analysis, Faragher, Cass, & Cooper, (2005) found job satisfaction to be more strongly related to mental and psychological problems than to physical complaints. The closest relationship was found between burnout and job satisfaction (r = .478), as it failed to reach statistical significance in only 5 of the 62 studies on burnout analyzed. Job satisfaction has been viewed by some authors (Oshagbemi, 1999) as the positive emotional reactions and attitudes an individual has towards his/her job, whereas others have considered it a bi-dimensional construct consisting of ''satisfaction/lack of satisfaction'' and ''dissatisfaction/lack of dissatisfaction'' dimensions (Winefield, Tiggemann, & Goldney, 1988).

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