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The Relationship between Burnout and School Satisfaction Based on the Student’s Age




Adolescence is the age of transformation and spending most of the time in the education system, the wellbeing of the teenager is influenced by every experience had in this system: relationships with colleagues, teachers, the grades, what they learn in school. At the age of twelve there is a step which, once it’s taken, welcomes the child into an age of changes. This research investigates the relationship between burnout, school satisfaction, and life satisfaction as children and adolescents get older, an aspect which is not so talked about in literature. The participants in this study were 3460 students between 10 and 19 years old, of which 1751 were boys and 1709 were girls, and 67.6% were from urban environments and 32.4% were from rural environments. It was noticed that the burnout level grows progressively after the age of 12, which deteriorates the level of school satisfaction through a ‘bottom-up’ process, which causes its decrease. The level of Overall Life Satisfaction (OLS) also decreases with age, one of the reasons being the exhaustion caused by too many or too difficult school tasks.



school satisfaction, burnout, adolescence wellbeing, learning, education.

JEL Classification

I20, I21, I29.


1. Introduction

Throughout history, the concern for the children’s happy life was present under different approaches, from considering that the child is a miniature adult, assigning him the same obligations, capabilities, and results in doing day-to-day tasks, to the nowadays general opinion that a child is different than an adult not just because of their physical features, but also because of their mental and social features. Questions such as the following come up: When a child declares himself as being happy or unhappy, what are the standards of happiness to which he can relate to? How can an adult know and how can he make sure that the child’s and the adolescent’s happiness is one with the objective present? There are theoretical limits and controversies which make it difficult to have a clear and unanimously accepted analysis of what happiness and a good quality of life are for children.

The influential factors of the children’s and teenagers’ happiness are not fully known and there are questions about the emergent effects of the interactions between all the systems and subsystems that their lives are part of. One well-known fact is that for children and teenagers the level of school satisfaction predicts the level of happiness. They spend most of their time at school, making friends, succeeding or failing, meeting challenges, building skills and abilities. Their attitude is promising when they are integrated in a good school environment, gaining trust in themselves, and building courage to project a bright future. For that to happen, children and teenagers need the support of the people around them, of their family above all, and then of the people they interact with at school (teachers, colleagues). They also need the support of the social policy decision makers. There are cognitive and affective elements included in the way that the student relates to the school, the attitude being either one of attraction or of disinterest and even rejection. Reliving the stress associated with the school activities can lead to burnout and to school disengagement.

The current paper adopts the methodology of a more extensive study, carried out at a global level, Children’s Worlds: International Survey of Children’s Well-Being (ISCWEB) (Rees et al., 2020), where our country participated alongside 36 others. One major contribution of that study is that it investigated children’s opinions of their own lives, thus recognizing, and respecting their positions as social change agents. Furthermore, the current study aims to identify by what amount life satisfaction and school satisfaction changes with age, by investigating how burnout can influence them. The central motivation of choosing this research theme arose after observing results of similar studies (Casas et al., 2013; Casas & González‐Carrasco, 2019; Daly, 2022; Persson et al., 2016). These studies identified a decrease in life satisfaction as time went by, starting with ages 11-12 and continuing up to adult age, thus generating the need to identify potential influencing factors. The originality aspect of this research is the new approach in Romanian literature regarding how school satisfaction can be influenced by burnout. Moreover, the variation analysis of the school satisfaction, starting with primary education, continuing with lower and higher secondary education is another important contribution. We aim to elaborate a theoretical model that will explain the variation of school satisfaction; this is a starting point for identifying programs and approaches that can help prevent the state of unhappiness among children and adolescents, as well as identifying programs and activities to develop and maintain a high quality of life.


2. Literature Review

2.1. School satisfaction – a predictor of students’ life satisfaction

The school world consists of experiences, interpretations, emotions, achievements and disappointments, interactions and anticipations of the main beneficiaries – children and teenagers. A student spends most of their time at school, and this environment becomes an important context in their development, guiding their self-perception and the degree of assessment of their own potential and also their strength and courage to build their future. School is a part of the student’s way to positively fit in when it functions like a healthy environment for growing from a psychological point of view (Baker et al., 2003). A school environment can be described this way if it adequately meets and challenges the children’s growing needs. The obtained results are a consequence of how certain elements fit together: the needs and abilities to grow, on one side, and the structures, objectives and educational practices, on the other. The beliefs about who they are as individuals, the meaning of their lives, of their role as students and of the context they are growing up in, all of these are influenced by the interaction in the school environment. If the school experience is a good one, one can talk about the child’s positive adaptability in school (Wang & Gordon, 2012), but, if the child loses their motivation to go to school, he disconnects himself from anything related to school – colleagues and friends – the phenomenon of school disengagement comes up which most of the time leads to absenteeism and school dropout (Ames, 1992). In the last decade, nearly 1.7 million of the more than 6 million students enrolled in the first year of high school did not make it to their senior year (Mastorci et al., 2022). Among the causes we can find unwanted events from school, bad interpretations of what the school context means and also the stressful and traumatizing life events (in the family or in society). However, no matter the environmental risks and adversities, some children and teenagers succeed in being good in school, they develop academic and social skills, they are autonomous and have control of their own goals, something that represents indicators of educational resilience (Wang & Gordon, 2012). How satisfied or dissatisfied a child is when it comes to their life in school contributes to the level of their life’s satisfaction and to their happiness.

Life satisfaction refers to how satisfied a person is with their life. According to Veenhoven (2009), this state of contentment is a result of the beliefs and interpretations of one’s own life and it represents the cognitive component of well-being. For children, subjective well-being includes aspects related to the quality of school experiences. The concept of well-being is vast, Australia, for example, having over 1000 registered instruments to measure it, at the Australian Centre on Quality of Life (Tomyn & Cummins, 2011b). This article wants to prove the importance of the school environment in building the child’s well-being or exhaustion and disengagement. Therefore, school satisfaction is brought into focus, which is a component of life satisfaction, which, on its own represents an indicator of subjective well-being (Casas et al., 2013).

Life satisfaction is conceptualized as a global construct, being the individual’s cognitive evaluation with respect to their current and general life circumstances (Diener, 2000). Similarly, Huebner, Ash and Laughlin define school satisfaction as “the cognitive evaluation of the quality of school life” (2001). Understanding factors associated with adolescents’ satisfaction with school is necessary to enhance their physical and psychological well-being (Saleh et al., 2019). There are significant correlations between the two concepts (Bălțătescu & Bacter, 2022). Casas and his collaborators made a research in which they analysed to what degree the school’s different aspects (relationships with colleagues, friends, and teachers) correlates with the school satisfaction and life satisfaction. Results indicated that the school satisfaction is strongly correlated with students’ satisfaction with teachers, but weakly correlated with life satisfaction in general. However, satisfaction with friends from school is strongly correlated with life satisfaction in general, but weakly correlated with school satisfaction.

Teenagers who declared themselves as satisfied with their life in general proved to have a positive function in intrapersonal, interpersonal, and school fields (Gilman & Huebner, 2003),   meaning that they can be described through their ability to know themselves, to have harmonious relationships and to integrate well in groups they belong to, including in school groups. Additionally, the children’s and teenagers’ low level of life satisfaction were negatively correlated with a variety of risky behaviours (risky sexual behaviour, alcohol, and drugs usage etc.), aggressive behaviours, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders.

The theme of the research presented in this article started from identifying the decrease of the students’ level of subjective well-being in the professional literature, as they age (Casas & González‐Carrasco, 2019). In the study that González-Carrasco and collaborators (2017) researched on for an year, having as subjects 940 Spanish teenagers aged 10 to 15, and its purpose being to analyse if the level of subjective well-being changes from one year to another, it was noticed that this level decreases from 11-12 years old, which is a more marking phenomenon for girls. Moreover, Tomyn and Cummins (2011a) recorded a decrease of well-being levels between 12 and 16, presenting changes related to adolescence, such as physical, social, and psychological changes, especially in the last part of the time frame. Numerous studies are consistent in reporting a progressive decline in levels of subjective well-being starting from age 11-12 until late adolescence. This decline continues into adulthood, with teenagers reporting a higher level of subjective well-being than adults.


2.2. School burnout

When we refer to burnout, we talk about environmental stressors and individual factors (Walburg, 2014). Burnout has become one of the most important psychosocial occupational hazards in today’s society, generating significant costs for both individuals and organizations (Edú-Valsania et al., 2022). Clinical experience suggests various manifestations of the syndrome; from the perspective of this approach burnout is defined as an experience in which a strong feeling of dissatisfaction occurs, caused by the discrepancy between personal contributions and the obtained gratification (Farber, 1990). The most popular description is the one of Maslach and Jackson (2013), which states that burnout has three dimensions: (1) emotional exhaustion, (2) depersonalization of others, (3) the feeling of lacking a personal fulfilment when working with other people.

The burnout syndrome is found amongst adults, students and also amongst high school students (Schaufeli et al., 2002). Speaking of the last category, the authors write about the same three burnout dimensions, mentioning the fact that the exhaustion is followed by stiffness and chronic fatigue, and that cynicism (as a form of depersonalization) is followed by the belief that any school activity has no meaning, in additional to the lack of interest in the tasks. The aspects are compounded by feelings of inadequacy, accompanied by self-perceptions of incompetence and unfulfillment. Repeatedly experiencing stress associated with school activities leads to burnout. This occurs when, due to a constantly high workload, the student feels that he cannot manage the situation, that external demands exceed personal resources, leading to exhaustion. The student starts to detach from everything related to school, loses interest, and no longer finds a meaning in learning, even the pleasure of socializing with colleagues and friends from school disappears.


3. Methodology

Data collection was conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic, between the months of March and May 2021. The study carried out by Bălțătescu and Bacter (2022) highlighted a fear of Covid-19 among Romanian children, a fear for their family members’ safety, an increase in negative feelings, missing their colleagues, school, friends etc. Specific questions referring to the pandemic were introduced in the associated questionnaire, by using a standardized data collection instrument, which was applied in 20 countries. The current research, part of the Children’s Worlds project, utilizes a questionnaire that was adapted to the pandemic condition by including these specific items (e.g., I feel protected from Coronavirus, I miss my family, I miss my friends, I feel safe at home, I feel safe at school etc.).

The tools used in the research were:

  • School-Burnout Inventory (SBI). For the current paper we translated the original from English to Romanian. The instrument was developed by Salmela-Aro and Näätänen in 2005, starting from another existing one, “The Bergen Burnout Indicator 15 (BBI-15) for working life” (Salmela-Aro et al., 2009). SBI was built by switching from a work context to a school context and by including the ten items that had the highest fidelity score and the best fit for the school context out of the initial fifteen.

The instrument consists of ten items that measure the three factors of school burnout: a) school exhaustion – four items (e.g., I feel overwhelmed by my schoolwork); b) cynicism towards the meaning of school – three items (e.g., I’m continually wondering whether my schoolwork has any meaning); c) feeling inadequate at school – three items (e.g., I often have feelings of inadequacy in my schoolwork) (Appendix 1). The items are evaluated on a 5-point Likert scale, where 1 means “Completely disagree” and 5 means “Completely agree”. The internal consistency analysis for the items contained a Cronbach alpha of .888, which is considered between good and excellent. Prior to the factor analysis we carried out an imputation procedure. Thus, the questionnaires with a maximum of two missing answers on this scale had the answers replaced with the mean of the other items (Fernández-Alonso et al., 2012) and the questionnaires with more than two missing answers were disregarded from the study. No item was identified that, if dropped, would improve the value of this coefficient.

The factorial analysis of the other nine items was carried out. This highlighted the extraction of a single factor with an eigenvalue greater than or equal to 1.00, which signifies a strong correlation between items. The scree plot diagram shows that eigenvalues drop beyond the first factor, the line is flat after it (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Scree Plot Diagram – School Burnout Inventory


  • Student Life Satisfaction Scale (SLSS: Huebner, 1991). The scale consists of 6 items, through which the children can evaluate different aspects of their lives (Lewis et al., 2011) (Appendix 2).
  • Overall Life Satisfaction (OLS). The scale consists of a single item, through which a person can evaluate their life satisfaction as a whole. This item was proposed by Campbell and his collaborators in 1976 (González-Carrasco et al., 2019): How satisfied are you with your life as a whole?

The questionnaire was applied for 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students, in a physical, pencil-on-paper format. The questionnaires with more than two missing answers on the relevant scales were eliminated from the statistical analysis. Data was weighted per grade according to urban-rural environment, per gender, per class and for each class.

For this study we aimed to take a representative sample at a county level. The primary sampling unit was the class of students. The research took place in 31 schools in Bihor County, 18 of which are in urban environments (67.6% of students) and 13 in rural environments (32.4% of students). The study gathered 3460 participants aged between 10 and 19, out of which 1751 boys (50.6%) and 1709 girls (49.4%).

10 years 11 years 12 years 13 years 14 years 15 years 16 years 17 years 18 years 19 years Total
Boy 137 220 211 270 206 132 184 113 196 82 1751
Girl 123 185 195 279 197 121 222 90 220 77 1709
Total 260 405 406 549 403 253 406 203 416 159 3460

Table 1. Distribution by Age and Gender (Absolute Frequency)


A collaboration protocol was signed between the University of Oradea, the Bihor County School Inspectorate and C.J.R.A.E. Bihor (Bihor County Centre for Educational Resources and Assistance). In addition, each school was sent a written request to participate to the study and to collect consent for applying the questionnaire, consent which was granted in all cases. Each participating student received a passive consent form, that had to be reviewed by the parents. The lack of returning of this form meant the parents offered their consent for their children to participate. We respected the right of respondents to remain anonymous.

In the testing phase, the instrument was applied with the aid of school counsellors who were attached to each school unit or, where there were no counsellors, somebody affiliated with the school was selected instead. These members of the teaching staff were trained as operators on the purpose of the research and on administering the instrument. The questionnaires were filled out in class, with pencil on paper, in the presence of the teacher who delivers the class. No refusals or major comprehension problems were brought up by the operators.


Research hypotheses

The general objective of the study is to identify a relation between burnout, school satisfaction and life satisfaction among primary education students (4th grade), lower secondary education (6th and 8th grade) and higher secondary education (10th and 12th grade) in Bihor County.

Hypothesis 1. The level of school satisfaction, which decreases as students age, is aggravated by burnout.

Hypothesis 2. There is a significant positive correlation between school satisfaction and life satisfaction.

In order to adapt the instrument to the specific linguistic and cultural context, we translated the newly introduced scales from the Children’s Worlds Project (School-Burnout Inventory – SBI, Utrecht Work Engagement Scale for Students – Uwes-S and The Children’s Social Desirability Short Scale – CSD-S) from English to Romanian. Two additional authorized translators performed the scale translation; in the end all three variants were translated back to English and the results compared to the original in order to eliminate translation errors and to adapt the questionnaire to the target population.

The instrument was applied  with the aid of school counsellors who were attached to each school unit or, where there were no counsellors, somebody affiliated with the school was selected instead. These members of the teaching staff were trained as operators on the purpose of the research and on administering the instrument. The questionnaires were filled out in class, with pencil on paper, in the presence of the teacher who delivers the class. The questionnaire answers were introduced in a standard format, using SPSS, which was then used for the statistical analysis of the data. We verified the correct introduction of data and the labelling of each variable. A few students aged 9 and 20 were excluded from the data base, on the criteria of being outside of the target age group. Data was weighted per grade according to urban-rural environment, per gender, per class and for each class.


4. Results and discussions

In order to test the hypotheses, we have calculated the averages for the SBI and SLSS scales. The results were normalized between 0 and 100 to allow comparison with different scales. Prior to this we used an imputation method, by replacing missing answers in each scale, where less than 20% of them were missing.

School-Burnout Inventory (SBI) Student Life Satisfaction Scale (SLSS)



Std. Deviation=24.9




Std. Deviation=18.61

Table 2. Scale Coefficients


For the School-Burnout Inventory (SBI), low scores indicate disagreement, and the high scores, close to 100 signal a strong agreement. For the Student Life Satisfaction Scale (SLSS), a low score indicates a low satisfaction degree, and a high score indicates a high satisfaction degree. The SLSS results indicated a slightly higher school satisfaction score for girls. In Table 3 we can observe that school satisfaction decreases as age increases.

Gender Age
School satisfaction Boy   mean=75.67


std. deviation=19.03

Girl   mean=77.5


std. deviation=18.05

10 years  mean=88.81


std. deviation=12.72

11 years    mean =88.58


std. deviation=12.84

12 years    mean =78.95


std. deviation=16.37

13 years    mean =79.08


std. deviation=16.32

14 years   mean =75.27


std. deviation=18.17

15 years    mean =73.5


std. deviation=18.75

16 years   mean =72.07


std. deviation=18.07

17 years  mean =71.82


std. deviation=18.27

18 years   mean =66.75


std. deviation=19.41

19 years    mean =65.07


std. deviation=20.55

Table 3. Distribution of School Satisfaction Scores (SLSS) by Gender and Age


In Table 4 we can observe a slightly higher burnout score for boys. A very important result for the present paper is that as age increases, burnout increases considerably as well, the mean value for a 19-year-old student (mean=47.18) doubling from that of a 10-year-old student (mean=23.67).

  Gender Age
Burnout (SBI) Boy  mean=37.97


std. deviation=24.92

Girl   mean =36.94


std. deviation=24.90

10 years  mean =23.67


std. deviation=21.88

11 years  mean =24.53


std. deviation=23.07

12 years  mean =35


std. deviation =25.09

13 years  mean =36.69


std. deviation=24.35

14 years  mean =39.57


std. deviation =24.4

15 years  mean =42.22


std. deviation =24.82

16 years  mean =41.05


std. deviation =22.37

17 years  mean =41.87


std. deviation=23.18

18 years  mean =47.52


std. deviation =23.74

19 years  mean =47.18


std. deviation =24.64

Table 4. Distribution of the Burnout Scale Index Scores by Gender and Age


Hypothesis 1. The level of school satisfaction, which decreases as students age, is aggravated by burnout.

Results. In order to test the first hypothesis, we used linear regression through the PROCESS algorithm (Hayes, 2022), implemented in SPSS. The result is that the interaction between age and burnout levels cause a decrease in life satisfaction (p<0.01), N=3426. The determination coefficient R-sq=.3589, which means that the existence of 35.89% of the data can be accounted for by the interaction of the variables age, burnout, and their interaction on satisfaction with school. This interaction is statistically significant and negatively moderates the relation between school satisfaction and age.

Model Summary
R R-sq MSE F df1 df2 p
.5991 .3589 225.2088 638.6636 3.0000 3422.0000 .0000
coeff se t p LLCI ULCI
constant 104.0730 2.4252 42.9137 .0000 99.3181 108.8279
Age -.9291 .1772 -5.2443 .0000 -1.2764 -.5817
Burnout -.1560 .0563 -2.7709 .0056 -.2664 -.0456
Int_1 -.0157 .0039 -3.9980 .0001 -.0234 -.0080
Product Terms Key
Int_1: Age x Burnout

Table 5. Regression Matrix for Hypothesis 1


The following aspects can be observed from Figure 2: when the burnout level is low, the school satisfaction is high and decreases with age, but not as strongly. A medium burnout level correlates with a lower school satisfaction score and a high burnout level causes an even more significant drop in school satisfaction.

Figure 2. Relation Between School Satisfaction and Age, Moderated by Burnout


There are both cognitive and affective elements in the way the student relates to the school, the constructed attitude being either one of attraction (favourable attitude), or one of disinterest and even rejection (unfavourable attitude) (Sandovici & Robu, 2014). The burnout syndrome acts like a bottom-up process towards school satisfaction, its elements influencing the superordinate and more complex concept. The Bottom-Up Spillover Theory refers to the effect of the subordinate domains spreading to life as a whole, a bottom-up “overflow” of very concrete evaluations of life experience towards interpretations that are increasingly abstract (Sirgy, 2002). The Bottom-up Theory was first introduced by Andrews and Withey in 1976 and states that an individual’s life satisfaction as a whole is strongly influenced by objective conditions of various life areas: family, social, professional, financial, leisure, health etc. Satisfaction of various life areas contributes positively to life satisfaction as a whole. A person’s standard of living is one of the life areas that affects life evaluations as a whole (Diener, 2009). Through the lens of this theory burnout is one of the factors that contribute to a decrease of school satisfaction, through emotional exhaustion, detachment from school, a feeling of incompetence, all of them being characteristics that can describe various aspects of school life.

Hypothesis 2. There is a significant positive correlation between school satisfaction and life satisfaction.

Results. Testing for the second hypothesis was performed through a correlational analysis, by investigating the degree of association between variables (school satisfaction and life satisfaction), using the Bravais-Pearson correlation coefficient (r= .464**). Thus, the results of multiple studies (Casas et al., 2022; Ferguson et al., 2011; Piko, 2023) that display a positive association between life satisfaction and school satisfaction – as a superordinate domain and one of its subordinate domains, respectively – are confirmed. We obtained a significance level p<0.01, the correlation is positive, which indicates that as school satisfaction increases, life satisfaction increases as well.


5. Conclusions

The paper aimed to investigate how burnout affects school satisfaction and, implicitly, life satisfaction. Seeing as the two types of satisfaction are positively correlated, the presence of burnout contributes to a decrease in both. In addition to the physical, psychological, and social development throughout adolescence, another major role in a teenager’s welfare is the interaction with the school environment, with the pressure the student feels from the school and how they interpret the relationship with everything related to this environment (the relationship with teachers and with colleagues, the difficulty of the tasks, the amount of time spent for homework, support received from parents etc.). This research covers a gap in the literature by drawing attention to the presence of burnout as a cause for decrease in school satisfaction and life satisfaction, which influences the course and development of young men and women.

The relation between these types of variables was investigated very little both in Romania, and globally. The theories surrounding the drop in life satisfaction and school satisfaction as age increases were not focused on burnout as a factor, nor in the manners in which it contributes to a decrease in subjective wellbeing and the age it manifests itself most strongly. The study samples cover a wide age range, between 10 and 19 years old, which helps formulate conclusions that in turn allow us to observe progressive changes. The preliminary exploratory analysis highlights that there is a threshold around age 12, that once surpassed, will introduce the child in an age category where changes happen, an aspect confirmed by other literature.

The results indicate that between ages 10 and 12 the burnout and life satisfaction evaluation scores were similar, and after this age they change. OLS drops slightly with age. After passing the aforementioned threshold, burnout increases progressively, which aggravates life satisfaction through a bottom-up process, thus contributing to its decrease. This explanation is not exhaustive, there are a multitude of explicatory factors for the variation in life and school satisfaction levels. However, these results help elaborate a possible answer: exhaustion caused by too many or too difficult school requirements will cause a disengagement from the school environment and everything it involves.

The limits of the study draw attention mostly to the correlational approach instead of panel research; thus, the causal mechanisms can mainly be assumed and not tested. The next step of this research is to introduce additional variables to the model and to perform an in-depth analysis by means of structural equations. We believe in the necessity of investigating the extent to which burnout contributes to a decreasing school and life satisfaction. The results of this study can help teachers implement adequate strategies and methods that will enable healthy development for teenagers and help them form a favourable attitude towards school.


About the Author

Ani Emilia Cernea-Radu
ORCID ID: 0000-0002-2038-0771
University of Oradea, Oradea, Romania



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Appendix 1

School Burnout Inventory (SBI)

*Please choose the alternative that the best describes your situation (estimation from previous month):

Completely disagree Partly disagree Disagree Partly agree Agree Completely agree
1 2 3 4 5 6


  1. I feel overwhelmed by my schoolwork.
  2. I feel a lack of motivation in my schoolwork and often think of giving up.
  3. I often have feelings of inadequacy in my schoolwork.
  4. I often sleep badly because of matters related to my schoolwork.
  5. I feel that I am losing interest in my schoolwork.
  6. I’m continually wondering whether my schoolwork has any meaning.
  7. I brood over matters related to my schoolwork a lot during my free time.
  8. I used to have higher expectations of my schoolwork than I do now.
  9. The pressure of my schoolwork causes me problems in my close relationships with others.



Appendix 2 

Student Life Satisfaction Scale – SLSS

*How satisfied are you with each of the following things in your life?

0 = Not at all satisfied                                                                               10 = Totally satisfied

0             1             2             3             4             5             6             7             8             9             10


  1. Your student life.
  2. The things you learned in school.
  3. The other classmates.
  4. The grades you take.
  5. What do you experience at school.
  6. The relationship with the teachers.


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