This longitudinal study among Spanish teachers (N = 558) examined burnout from an evolutionary social rank perspective. The types of stress differed among various school levels, and a sense of defeat was highest among teachers in primary schools. A low status, a loss of status and a sense of defeat were independent cross-sectional predictors of burnout. Longitudinally a sense of defeat predicted an increase in burnout over time, especially among males and teachers in high schools. The status related variables were in general more important predictors of burnout than stressors that are usually associated with burnout. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.