From warming to burning: Assessing factors of burnout in climate activists


Non-occupational burnout is an under-examined field of research, particularly activist burnout where estimations of prevalence rates rival some of the highest occupational rates of burnout. Research in this area has focused on domain-specific activism, but has not considered climate activists, a large movement that continues to grow in importance. In this paper, a number of factors that emerged from the qualitative literature are operationalised and assembled into a model of climate activist burnout. Climate activists (N = 188) undertook a survey assessing Stress, Intragroup Conflict, Sense of Progress, Isolation, and Workload Sustainability, and Burnout. Using Structural Equation Modelling, the proposed model was analysed and refined iteratively until no further improvements could be made. Findings indicated that Sense of Progress was negatively predictive of the Cynicism dimension of burnout; and Workload Sustainability was negatively predictive of the Exhaustion dimension of burnout, with this relationship partially mediated by Stress. Conflict and Isolation were not found to be predictive of burnout. This is the first known comprehensive quantitative model of burnout in climate activists. Findings from this research may help develop more efficacious intervention strategies for activist burnout by prioritising higher-impact factors to target.


Broadbent, A., Holt, C., & MacDonald, J. B. (2021). From warming to burning: Assessing factors of burnout in climate activists. Australasian Conference on Traumatic Stress, 14–18 September. Online conference, Australia. (Paper)