Age discrimination and burnout: age-differentiated effects through occupational future time perspective

Empirical studies
By Donatienne Desmette, Patrizia Villotti

Addressing age discrimination is at the heart of active aging policies that aim to protect workers’ physical and mental health throughout their careers in order to extend working lives (Zacher et al., 2018). Indeed, it appears that age discrimination is a risk factor that can lead to burnout (Volpone & Avery, 2013). Burnout represents the main indicator of lack of professional well-being in contemporary Western societies. Some studies highlight that older workers’ well-being is particularly vulnerable to age discrimination (Von Hippel et al., 2019). However, few studies have focused on examining the processes that explain the effects of age discrimination on burnout. In light of resource conservation theory (Hobfoll, 2001) and socioemotional selectivity theory (Carstensen et al., 1999), this study analyses the effects of age discrimination on burnout through the future time perspective at work, depending on workers’ age. A cross-sectional study using an online questionnaire was carried out on 231 workers of all ages. The results confirm the hypothesis that age discrimination is positively associated with burnout and that the relationship is stronger for older workers through a reduction in future work time perspective. It also appears that middle-aged workers are also affected by age discrimination via the reduction of their future time perspective, raising the question of the effects of the identity threat linked to the stigmatized future belonging. Moreover, these results add to recent studies using the Burnout Assessment Tool (BAT, Schaufeli et al., 2020) as a tool for measuring burnout. Ultimately, this study helps to shed light on future time perspective at work (and in particular the focus on opportunities) as a personal resource whose deprivation is likely to lead to burnout in older workers. Recommendations are proposed for combating age discrimination and preventing burnout.

  • age discrimination
  • burnout
  • age
  • occupational future time perspective
  • BAT
  • older workers
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