Arrhythmias: Burnout syndrome increases the risk of atrial fibrillation

Arrhythmias: Burnout syndrome increases the risk of atrial fibrillation

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Burnout syndrome is associated with irregular heartbeat

Burnout sufferers often feel excessively tired, lack of energy, demoralized and irritated. But that's not all: A study by the European Cardiology Society has now revealed that burnout syndrome often leads to potentially dangerous cardiac arrhythmias.

In a recent study, researchers from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) showed that burnout syndrome is associated with an increased risk of potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias. The results were recently presented in the "European Journal of Preventive Cardiology".

Burnout and depression are different

"Burnout syndrome is typically caused by long-lasting and profound stress at work or at home," says study author Dr. Parveen K. Garg from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. However, it differs from a depression, which is characterized more by bad mood, feelings of guilt and low self-esteem.

20 percent increased risk of atrial fibrillation

The researchers in this study analyzed data from more than 11,000 people for the presence of vital exhaustion, anger, poor social support and the use of antidepressants. They tracked the development of atrial fibrillation, the most common form of irregular heartbeat, over a period of almost 25 years.

Participants with the highest levels of vital fatigue were 20 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation during follow-up than those who showed little to no evidence of vital fatigue.

The cause is obvious, but has not yet been confirmed

Although more studies are needed to better understand the observed relationship, Dr. Garg notes that two mechanisms are probably responsible for the increased risk: "Vital exhaustion is associated with increased inflammation and increased activation of the body's physiological stress response," explains the expert. If these two things are triggered chronically, it can have serious and harmful effects on the heart tissue, which could eventually lead to the development of this arrhythmia.

Other symptoms are not associated with atrial fibrillation

However, the study found no link between anger, taking antidepressants or poor social support, and developing atrial fibrillation. "The results for anger and social support are consistent with previous research, but two previous studies found a significant link between antidepressant use and an increased risk of atrial fibrillation," comments Garg. It needs to be clarified even more clearly here.

Further research is also necessary to identify specific measures for doctors who can better help those with exhaustion symptoms. "It is already known that exhaustion increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and stroke," said the study author. The current study shows that the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, a potentially severe cardiac arrhythmia, can also increase.

Avoid long periods of exhaustion

The researchers advise that the importance of avoiding fatigue by carefully observing and coping with personal stress levels as a means of maintaining general cardiovascular health cannot be emphasized enough.

About atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of irregular heartbeat. It is estimated that approximately 17 million people in Europe and 10 million people in the United States will suffer from the condition in the next few years. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death. But what exactly causes atrial fibrillation is not yet fully understood.

The current study supports the thesis that psychological stress is a risk factor for atrial fibrillation. It is the first study to examine the specific relationship between vital exhaustion and atrial fibrillation. (vb)

Also read: Stress reduction: Stress reduction made easy.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • European Society of Cardiology (ESC): Burnout linked with irregular heartbeat (accessed: January 15, 2020),
  • Garg PK, Claxton JS, Soliman EZ, et al. Associations of anger, vital exhaustion, anti-depressant use, and poor social ties with incident atrial fibrillation: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2020,

Video: Atrial Fibrillation AFib. Qu0026A (August 2022).