Perceived stress and burnout among volunteer caregivers working in AIDS care in South Africa


  • Olagoke Akintola MBA MPH PhD,

    Senior Lecturer, Visiting Professor, Corresponding author
    1. School of Applied Human Sciences, University of KwaZuluNatal, Durban, South Africa
    2. Program in Policy Decision-making, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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  • Wellington Mthokozisi Hlengwa BsocSci MSocSci (HP),

    Senior Officer
    1. Intellectual Property & Innovation, University of Zululand, Kwadlangezwa, South Africa
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  • Wenche Dageid Cand.Psychol. PhD

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    1. Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Blindern, Norway
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To conduct a quantitative investigation of stress and the relationship with burnout among AIDS care volunteers.


Volunteer caregivers experience stress that could lead to burnout. Yet, very few studies quantify stress and its relationship with burnout among AIDS care volunteers.


This study uses a cross-sectional, exploratory survey design.


Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 126 volunteer caregivers working in 13 semi-rural communities (townships) in Durban, South Africa in April 2009. All participants were women, Christian and with low levels of education. A 22-item instrument was drawn from Pearlin et al.'s role overload and role captivity scales, Van Dyk's stress factor scale and the Maslach Burnout Inventory.


Most of the volunteers had moderate-to-high levels of stress. ‘Role/work overload’ ‘lack of support’ and ‘overwhelming nature of the disease’ explained most of the variance in stress. Volunteers’ age and number of patients in their care were predictors of stress. Caring for only AIDS patients, lack of support, stress emanating from perceived stigma and lack of training; and the overwhelming nature of AIDS were predictors of burnout.


High levels of stress could negatively impact volunteers’ health and well-being and on-the-job performance. Policy makers must develop and fund home-based care models that take into account the stressors associated with AIDS care, by reducing the work load, providing ongoing psychosocial support and recruiting nurses to assist volunteers. The small non-probability sample used in this study highlights the need to treat the findings with caution.