Burnout and associated factors in undergraduate medical students at a South African university

L J van der Merwe, A Botha, G Joubert


Background. Medical students are at risk of burnout owing to various challenges.

Objectives. To investigate burnout and associated factors among undergraduate students at a South African medical school.

Methods. In this cross-sectional study, findings of the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI), demographic data and information related to resilience were collected by means of an anonymous self-administered questionnaire. Associations between burnout subscales and various factors were determined.

Results. Five-hundred students (preclinical, n=270; clinical, n=230) completed the questionnaire. CBI mean scores for preclinical and clinical students were 17.9 and 17.4 (personal), 22.3 and 21.9 (work related) and 24.8 (patient related; clinical students only), respectively. High scores on the subscale reflect low levels of burnout in related areas. Male students and students with high self-reported resilience and low stress had significantly lower burnout levels. White preclinical students had lower levels of personal and work-related burnout, and black clinical students had less patient-related burnout.

Conclusions. High mean scores in all three burnout subscales indicated low burnout levels among students. Academic and personal stress, as well as perceived poor support from institutional structures, were associated with significantly higher personal and work-related burnout, but not patient-related burnout in clinical students.

Authors' affiliations

L J van der Merwe, Undergraduate Medical Programme Management, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

A Botha, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

G Joubert, Department of Biostatistics, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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Burnout; Stress factors; Resilience; Medical students; Copenhagen Burnout Inventory; Support

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2020;12(2):62-67. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2020.v12i2.1172

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-07-07
Date published: 2020-07-07

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