Balancing effort and rewards at university: Implications for physical health, mental health, and academic outcomes Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:The effort-reward imbalance model suggests that, when the efforts required within the workplace are disproportionately large in comparison to the rewards resulting from those efforts, there is an increased risk of stress-related health issues. The model posits that higher levels of "overcommitment," in addition to a high effort-reward imbalance ratio, magnifies this risk of ill-health. While work has been conducted to assess the validity of this model within the school setting, research in the higher education sector is limited. OBJECTIVES:This study explored the validity of the effort-reward imbalance model for explaining burnout, poor health, and academic productivity among university students. DESIGN AND METHODS:This study utilized a cross-sectional survey of Australian university students ( n = 395) from a range of universities. RESULTS:An imbalance of effort and reward was associated with poorer physical health, increased burnout, and reduced productivity. Effort-reward imbalance mediated a relationship between overcommitment and burnout; those high in overcommitment were more likely to experience an imbalance of effort and reward at university. CONCLUSION:The relationships between effort-reward imbalance, health, burnout, and academic productivity support the generalizability of this model to the university setting. In addition, the personal characteristic of overcommitment also appears to have an important relationship with burnout.

publication date

  • 2019