Original Research

Sense of coherence and burnout in the energy and chemicals industry: The moderating role of age

Sanet van der Westhuizen, Charmaine Horn, Alana Viljoen
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 13, No 1 | a705 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v13i1.705 | © 2015 Sanet van der Westhuizen, Charmaine Horn, Alana Viljoen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 April 2015 | Published: 30 November 2015

About the author(s)

Sanet van der Westhuizen, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, South Africa
Charmaine Horn, SGS SHE PSS Behaviour Transformation, SASOL Mining, South Africa
Alana Viljoen, Employee Relations, SGS SASOL Mining, South Africa

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Orientation: Organisations are accommodating four different social generations in the working environment. This poses a challenge for Human Resources departments to manage these diverse age cohorts in the workforce, as they are likely to have different needs, values and variables affecting their wellness.

Research purpose: The objective of the present study was to assess whether various age groups differ with regard to their sense of coherence and burnout, and whether age significantly moderates the relationship between sense of coherence and burnout.

Motivation for the study: Although the literature review suggests that age groups may differ with regard to their sense of coherence and burnout, the findings seem to be somewhat inconclusive in this regard. There also seems to be a paucity of research examining the interaction effect between sense of coherence, burnout and age.

Research approach, design and method: A cross-sectional quantitative survey approach was used. A nonprobability convenience sample of adults (N = 246) – employed in South Africa by an international integrated energy and chemicals company – participated in the study. Correlation, analysis of variance (ANOVA) and hierarchical multiple regression analyses were performed to achieve the objectives of the study.

Main findings: The results showed that employees between the ages of 51 and 60 years of age experienced higher levels of comprehensibility and lower levels of reduced professional efficacy than their younger counterparts. The relationship between sense of coherence and exhaustion was also stronger for employees between 51 and 60 years old than for younger age categories.

Practical/managerial implications: The results of the study can be useful when planning human resource interventions to enhance the well-being of employees from different age groups.

Contribution: The results of the study add new insights to the well-being literature by showing that employees’ age is important to consider when addressing their sense of coherence and burnout levels.


sense of coherence; burnout; age


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