TNO research shows: more burnout-related symptoms in young people

In 2022, 1 in 4 employees between the age of 18 and 34 indicated to experience symptoms of a burnout. Moreover, figures from TNO’s Nationale Enquête Arbeidsomstandigheden (NEA) (national questionnaire on working conditions) and the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) show that the gravity of burnout symptoms among young employees is increasing, as well as the absence of employees due to work-related psychological issues. Especially in healthcare and education, absence for psychological reasons is high.

At the request of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, TNO investigated burnout-related symptoms among young employees, aged 18-34. The report also looks into the days of absence in the past 12 months and if this absence was caused by psychological issues, stress or burnout, either partly or completely caused by their work, according to the young employees.

Number of women with serious complaints is growing

An increase in work-related absence due to psychological reasons can be observed, especially among young, highly educated women. In general, young women experience more burnout-related symptoms than men of the same age group. And the group of women with serious complaints is growing: from 25% of women with burnout-related symptoms in 2020 to 29% in 2022. The group of young men with burnout-related symptoms is also growing: from 13% in 2015 to 23% in 2022.

Burnout-related symptoms high, especially in healthcare and education

Between 2015 and 2022, absence due to work-related psychological issues among young employees shows a slight increase in almost all sectors under investigation. In healthcare and education, sectors that employ relatively many young women, not only the number of employees with burnout-related issues is high, but the group of employees with just a few burnout-related symptoms is becoming smaller in recent years.

In other words: in healthcare and education, the number of employees without burnout-related symptoms is shrinking. In 2021, an increase in burnout-related symptoms and absence due to psychological issues was observed in the IT branch. This increase may have been caused by the fast changes in work due to the COVID pandemic.

Why do young people increasingly suffer a burnout?

Additional, qualitative research among young employees shows that the pressure to excel, life’s uncertainties and social pressure are the main sources of the stress they experience. Young people feel a lot of pressure to excel, from society, work and on a social level. The feeling of always having to do everything right, of constantly being within reach, care tasks and the combination of work and family are the cause of a lot of stress. Social and financial uncertainty, in addition to career uncertainty, also play an important role. 

Young people also mentioned the constant flow of negative news on climate, nitrogen, war and COVID-19. From a financial perspective, inflation, high mortgages and student loans are often named as a cause. The impact of social media on young people’s self-image also plays a role in the amount of stress they experience. Additionally, social media also distract them from their work. Uncertainty about their job and housing situation inhibit their personal growth and cause a pessimistic outlook on the future.

To make work-related stress a topic of discussion, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, together with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, have launched the campaign ‘Hey, it’s okay’. For more information, check the website (Dutch only)


Workplace Vitality Hub

Students at the hub are also looking into mental health. We will keep you informed about any new developments.