The relation between social capital and burnout: a longitudinal study

  • Heidi JanssensEmail author
  • Lutgart Braeckman
  • Peter Vlerick
  • Bart Van de Ven
  • Bart De Clercq
  • Els Clays
Original Article



Although social capital approach has showed its merits in predicting well-being and health in the working environment, studies examining the relation between social capital and burnout are scarce and limited to cross-sectional studies in the health care sector. This study aims to explore the longitudinal relationship between workplace social capital and burnout in a Belgian company in the energy sector. An additional aim was to assess whether the relation between workplace social capital and the dimensions of burnout was independent of job characteristics, i.e., the level of decision-making autonomy and task variety, and demographical variables.


Analyses are conducted on the questionnaire data of 473 workers who participated at the two waves (2013 and 2014) of a longitudinal study.


The results showed a negative relation between social capital and distance and a positive relation between social capital and competence, after 1-year follow-up and after adjustments for baseline levels of the respective burnout dimension. In contrast with the literature, no relation between social capital and emotional exhaustion was found after adjustment for baseline level of emotional exhaustion. After additional adjustments were made for the job characteristics ‘decision-making autonomy’ and ‘task variety’, the relation between social capital and competence disappeared.


This study delivered evidence for the lagged relation between social capital and distance, even after controlling for demographical and job characteristics. Therefore, the findings suggest that organizations should pay attention to strategies enhancing social interaction, enabling to increase the levels of support, reciprocity, sharing and trust, in the prevention of burnout.


Emotional exhaustion Distance Competence Longitudinal study Technology sector 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. In line with the ethical committee decision and the prescribed ethical standards, a cover letter was attached to the survey, explaining the purpose of the study and stating that results would be used in scientific publications and a doctoral dissertation.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public HealthGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Provikmo, Occupational Health ServicesBrugesBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Personnel Management, Work and Organizational PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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