Edition 2021

Foto omschrijving: Nurse in protective gear using a mobile phone in a hospital corridor

Which jobs have the highest levels of mental fatigue?

In 2020, mental fatigue complaintsnoot1 caused by work (burn-out complaints) occurred most frequently among employees with a pedagogical occupation, such as teachers and educators, and people with a creative or linguistic occupation. Last year, 16 percent of all employees reported mental fatigue complaints. This was 17 percent in 2018 and 2019. This is evident from the Netherlands Working Conditions Survey (NEA), conducted jointly by CBS and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).

12%serviceoccupations11%transport andlogistics10%agricultural15%technical18%care andwelfare16%business andadministrativeWhich jobs have the highest levels of mental fatigue?
19%IT21%teaching14%management15%governance,security andlegal19%creative andlinguistic15%commercial

More fatigue complaints associated with a high workload and little autonomy

The survey figures show that mental fatigue due to work is more common among employees who generally experience a high workload. This is to say they are regularly required to work very fast, very long hours or extra hard.

It turns out that the amount of autonomy employees have, i.e. how much they have to say about the way they work, is decisive. Employees who experience a high workload but are able to (co-)decide on how the work is carried out and the order and speed in which the work has to be done, as well as on leave and working hours, report mental fatigue complaints less often than employees who do not have this level of autonomy (in 2020, 23 percent and 35 percent, respectively). Employees with a lot of autonomy and a low workload suffer the least from mental fatigue complaints (in 2020 this was 8 percent).

Work-related mental fatigue, 2020 (% several or more times a month)
werknemer Share of employees
Low level of autonomy .
High workload 35.2
Low workload 11.7
High level of autonomy .
High workload 22.7
Low workload 8.0

Little autonomy and high workload in the education sector

The fact that autonomy, work pressure and mental fatigue complaints are interrelated becomes apparent when occupations are compared. Managers experienced the highest workload in 2020, but also had the most autonomy. The percentage of managers with mental fatigue complaints was one of the lowest among all employees. People working in transport and logistics occupations also report relatively few mental fatigue complaints. While they have little autonomy, they do not experience a high workload. Both a high workload and a low degree of autonomy are common in education and in care and welfare occupations.

The service occupations are an exception. This sector is characterised by both a high workload and little autonomy, yet relatively few employees reported mental fatigue complaints in 2020. This can in part be explained by the fact that these occupations, including the cleaning industry and accommodation and food services, are staffed by a relatively large number of young people.

Employee autonomy, workload and work-related mental fatigue, 2020 (%)
beroep Low level of autonomy High workload Mental fatigue symptoms on a regular basis
All occupations 41.5 33.9 15.7
Educational occupations 61.8 40.2 21.0
Creative and linguistic occupations 27.0 33.7 18.8
ICT 17.7 27.5 18.5
Care and welfare 55.3 38.9 18.0
Business economics and administration 26.5 35.0 16.0
Commercial occupations 42.7 34.7 15.4
Technical occupations 37.3 28.4 15.3
Public administration, security and justice 35.8 31.5 14.6
Managers 9.7 50.9 13.9
Service-oriented occupations 55.4 31.2 11.8
Transport and logistics 70.1 24.7 11.2
Agricultural occupations 50.2 23.7 10.3
Other 57.4 23.8 18.3

The questions


Work-related mental fatigue

Mental fatigue due to work is measured based on the following statements:

  • I feel emotionally exhausted by my work.
  • At the end of a working day, I feel empty.
  • I feel tired when I get up in the morning at the thought of starting work.
  • It takes a lot out of me to work with people all day long.
  • I feel completely exhausted by my work.

The possible responses are: never, several times a year, monthly, several times a month, weekly, several times a week, or every day. If someone’s average response to these statements is several times a month or more frequently, this person’s contribution is viewed as representing mental fatigue caused by work.


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Final editor

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We thank all CBS colleagues who have contributed to this edition of The Netherlands in numbers.