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Open AccessArticle

“Engaged, Burned Out, or Both?” A Structural Equation Model Testing Risk and Protective Factors for Social Workers in Refugee and Homeless Aid

Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine (ZfAM), University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), 20459 Hamburg, Germany
Competence Centre for Epidemiology and Health Services Research for Healthcare Professionals (CVcare), University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), 20246 Hamburg, Germany
Department of Occupational Medicine, Hazardous Substances and Public Health, Institution for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention in the Health and Welfare Services (BGW), 22089 Hamburg, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(2), 583;
Received: 29 November 2019 / Revised: 6 January 2020 / Accepted: 11 January 2020 / Published: 16 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Occupational Health Psychology)
The present study sheds light on social workers’ working conditions in highly demanding settings and examines the associations between their perceived job demands, resources, resilience, personal burnout, and work engagement. A cross-sectional quantitative online survey was conducted with employees in social work institutions of independent and public sponsors providing help for refugees and homeless persons. The study participants were 243 social workers (68.8% female and 31.3% male) from four federal states in Germany. Correlations between social workers’ job demands, resources, burnout, and work engagement were confirmed in accordance with the Job Demands–Resources model. Results of the structural equation modelling revealed significant positive effects of employees’ job demands on their personal burnout, but no significant effects on their work engagement. The meaning of work as a job resource was significantly positively related to work engagement and negatively related to burnout. Although resilience did not moderate the relationship between employees’ job demands and burnout, it had a significant negative effect on burnout and a positive effect on work engagement. The results indicate a need for the development of health promotion measures for social workers in homeless and refugee aid. Structural approaches should target the reduction of employees’ job demands to diminish their potentially health-depleting effects. Of equal importance, behavioural measures should foster employees’ meaning of work and resilience, since both resources showed beneficial effects on their work engagement and were negatively related to burnout. View Full-Text
Keywords: personal burnout; resilience; social work; working conditions; work engagement personal burnout; resilience; social work; working conditions; work engagement
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Mette, J.; Robelski, S.; Wirth, T.; Nienhaus, A.; Harth, V.; Mache, S. “Engaged, Burned Out, or Both?” A Structural Equation Model Testing Risk and Protective Factors for Social Workers in Refugee and Homeless Aid. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 583.

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