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A saliva sample provides information about burn-out risks


Burn-out risk can be estimated by analyzing saliva samples

More and more people feel burned out due to the increasing workload and stress in the job. The overwork often leads to exhaustion syndrome. Researchers have now been able to show that the risk of burnout can be determined using a simple saliva sample.

Constant stress and long working hours

The workload on the job has increased significantly for the majority of German citizens. Some workers put up with stress and overtime effortlessly. Others, however, are constantly fighting against exhaustion and do not come to rest even on vacation or at the weekend and feel constantly burned out. You suffer from burnout. So far there is no binding definition for this fatigue syndrome. However, there are often certain signs of burnout such as depression, difficulty concentrating, chronic fatigue or severe inner restlessness. Researchers have now shown that burn-out can also be determined using a simple saliva sample.

Determine burn-out using a simple saliva test

According to calculations by the World Health Organization (WHO), "depression" takes first place in the global "disease burden".

According to the experts, three mental illnesses will be among the top 5 by 2030: depression, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia and alcohol addiction.

Mental suffering such as burnout is also increasing.

Researchers at the Medical University (MedUni) Vienna and the Health and Prevention Center of the KFA (health care institution of the city of Vienna's employees) have now shown that burn-out can be determined using a simple saliva test.

The hormone cortisol serves as a marker for this.

Cortisol is mainly released in the morning

As explained on the MedUni website, cortisol is an anti-stress hormone in itself, which activates degrading metabolic processes and thus provides the human body with high-energy compounds.

Its depressant effect on the immune system is also used to suppress excessive reactions and inhibit inflammation.

The hormone is released especially in the morning when you get up and, so to speak, boosts the circulation.

In healthy people, the cortisol level then drops again during the day - until practically no cortisol can be measured in the evening.

It is different with people who suffer from permanent stress: the body keeps the cortisol level in the measurable range much longer in order to cope with the stress that arises - if the stress then becomes "chronic", high cortisol levels occur without normal daily rhythm.

High work-related stress levels demonstrated

The three study directors Helmuth Haslacher and Alexander Pilger from the Clinical Department for Medical and Chemical Laboratory Diagnostics (KILM) at MedUni Vienna and Robert Winker from the stress clinic of the health and prevention center at the KFA were now able to show that with just one saliva sample each, which one Can be obtained at lunchtime or in the evening, can demonstrate the increased cortisol level and thus make the risk of burnout measurable.

Work-related stress and cortisol levels of burnout patients were compared with those of healthy workers.

"It turned out that those people who could be proven to have a high work-related stress level with psychological methods showed remarkably higher cortisol levels both at noon and in the evening," the experts explain.

"Furthermore, we observed that the clinical course and the cortisol values ​​of the patients improved during the therapy in the stress clinic specially set up by the KFA. This means that we can use this marker preventively to identify people with an increased risk of burnout. ”

In addition, further studies are to follow, which should evaluate this result and lead to the development of a valid, biochemical test system for everyday clinical use in order to clearly identify people at risk.

Accuracy of almost 100 percent

According to the scientists, the saliva samples at noon and in the evening showed a much better and safer result than the usual morning sample delivery - three times after waking up every quarter of an hour:

"Our current data suggests that burnout-prone people can be identified by a single saliva sample with an accuracy of approximately 100 percent, with the multiple morning saliva delivery known from the literature, we had a much larger fluctuation range with more elaborate methods."

Only four hours after sample delivery there is now a reliable analysis that also performed better than the analysis of stress-relevant blood parameters.

“With these results, we will further intensify our efforts to prevent stress-related illnesses in cooperation with the stress clinic of the KFA health and prevention center,” emphasized the researchers.

The results of the scientists were published in the "Nature" magazine. (ad)

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