Social Role Burnout: Prevalence and Impact on Advanced Level Students
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Objective: Social networks have long been believed to serve as a buffer to the development of disease and poor mental health. However, it is important to consider the impact of "over-involvement" within social networks, which can potentially accentuate stress. This idea has guided the theory of Social Role Burnout (SRB) which is defined as the depletion of energy and resources that develops as a result of over-involvement in social roles, and may result in physical, cognitive and emotional deficits. The present study assesses whether components of social network such as size and quality contribute to SRB. It is also hypothesized that subjective health and health behaviors will also be impacted by SRB. Method: The sample included 157 advanced level students enrolled in a medical or psychology graduate program, recruited from universities throughout the New York City area. Following informed consent participants completed a set of online questionnaires that included assessments of social network size, relationship quality, burnout experienced from social interactions, SRH, and health habits. The sample was predominantly female (80.3%), mean age of 26.2 years (SD = 2.9), and unmarried (84.1%). Results: Contrary to expectations, network size ( R2 = .03, F(1,151) = 4.'74, p = .03) and better quality relationships (R 2 = .14, F(5,119) = 3.98,p < .01) predicted less burnout. High-quality relationships predicted better SRH (R2 = .14, F(6,119) = 3.21, p = .02) compared to poor-quality relationships. Burnout mediated the relationship between network size and SRH (ab = .02 SE = .01, 95% CI: .0003 - .0494). Conclusion: Larger social networks and higher quality relationships protect against SRB. Greater number of social connections also reduces the effects of burnout on health compared to those with fewer social relationships. Findings suggest that social relationships do not cause burnout during periods of high stress. It is quiet possible that these data describe voluntary social relationships, which are not entered into without mutual benefit. Future studies should include a focus on cultures where social relationships are based on societal obligations and norms rather than personally negotiated demands, as these social ties may be more susceptible to burnout.