A follow-up of cognitive performance and diurnal salivary cortisol changes in former burnout patients

Tidsskriftartikel - 2012


The purpose of this study was to determine whether recovery from burnout is associated with improved cognitive functioning, and whether such improvement is associated with changes in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity and return to work. Forty-five former burnout patients were followed up after 1.5 years with a neuropsychological examination, diurnal salivary cortisol measurements, dexamethasone suppression test (DST), and self-ratings of cognitive problems. At follow-up, improved cognitive performance was observed on several tests of short-term memory and attention. Self-rated cognitive problems decreased considerably, but this decrease was unrelated to the improvement on neuropsychological tests. Diurnal salivary cortisol concentrations at awakening, 30 min after awakening, and in the evening, did not change from baseline to follow-up, nor did the cortisol awakening response. However, slightly, but significantly, stronger suppression of cortisol in response to the DST was observed at follow-up. Improvements in subjective or objective cognitive functioning and changes in diurnal cortisol concentration were unrelated to the extent of work resumption. However, a decreased DST response at follow-up was partially related to improved cognitive performance and work resumption. The clinical implications are that burnout seems to be associated with slight and significantly reversible cognitive impairment, and that self-rated cognitive change during recovery poorly reflects objective cognitive change.


Österberg K, Karlson B, Malmberg B, Hansen ÅM. A follow-up of cognitive performance and diurnal salivary cortisol changes in former burnout patients. Stress 2012;15(6):589-600.
doi: 10.3109/10253890.2011.648972

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