Psychological distress and burnout among buddies: demographic, situational and motivational factors

R.P.R. Claxton, J. Catalan, A.P. Burgess

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Work-related psychological distress (burnout) is a probable cause of drop-out among emotional support volunteers (buddies) who work with people living with AIDS. In addition to the emotional suffering and disruption to both the buddy and the buddied, burnout has significant cost implications for voluntary organizations in terms of training and recruitment. The aim of this study was to identify the demographic, situational and motivational factors associated with burnout among buddies with the intention of identifying individuals at risk at the recruitment stage. A cross-sectional single cohort postal questionnaire study design was used. All buddies registered with the Terrence Higgins Trust, a non-profit making organization set up in the UK to provide education about HIV/AIDS and care for people affected by the virus, were invited to participate. Psychological morbidity was measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, burnout with the Maslach Burnout Inventory and motivation was assessed using the Calvert Motivation Checklist. Information on the buddy relationship and the demographic details of each buddy was also collected. Of 586 questionnaires distributed, 324 (55%) were returned. More than 24% of buddies were classified as probable cases of burnout on one or more of the MBI scales but this is lower than has been reported in medical and nursing staff working with people living with AIDS. Although a number of demographic, situational and motivational factors were associated with burnout, logistic regression models were unable to identify a useful proportion of individuals at risk. It was concluded that although burnout is an important psychological factor in retaining volunteers, it was not possible to identify individuals at risk of burning out either from their self-reported motivations or from demographic factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-190
Number of pages16
JournalAids Care: Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of Aids-Hiv
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 1998


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