Adverse trajectories of mental health problems predict subsequent burnout and work-family conflict: A longitudinal study of employed women with children followed over 18 years

W. Nilsen, A. Skipstein, E. Demerouti

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The long-term consequence of experiencing mental health problems may lead to several adverse outcomes. The current study aims to validate previous identified trajectories of mental health problems from 1993 to 2006 in women by examining their implications on subsequent work and family-related outcomes in 2011.


Employed women (n = 439) with children were drawn from the Tracking Opportunities and Problems-Study (TOPP), a community-based longitudinal study following Norwegian families across 18 years. Previous identified latent profiles of mental health trajectories (i.e., High; Moderate; Low-rising and Low levels of mental health problems over time) measured at six time points between 1993 and 2006 were examined as predictors of burnout (e.g., exhaustion and disengagement from work) and work-family conflict in 2011 in univariate and multivariate analyses of variance adjusted for potential confounders (age, job demands, and negative emotionality).


We found that having consistently High and Moderate symptoms as well as Low-Rising symptoms from 1993 to 2006 predicted higher levels of exhaustion, disengagement from work and work-family conflict in 2011. Findings remained unchanged when adjusting for several potential confounders, but when adjusting for current mental health problems only levels of exhaustion were predicted by the mental health trajectories.


The study expands upon previous studies on the field by using a longer time span and by focusing on employed women with children who experience different patterns of mental health trajectories. The long-term effect of these trajectories highlight and validate the importance of early identification and prevention in women experiencing adverse patterns of mental health problems with regards to subsequent work and family-related outcomes.

Mental healthTrajectoriesBurnoutWork-family conflictWomenParentsMothersLongitudinal
Original languageEnglish
Article number384
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2016


  • Mental health
  • Trajectories
  • Burnout
  • Work-family conflict
  • Women
  • Parents
  • Mothers
  • Longitudinal

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