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Burnout, surface acting, and suicidal ideation among military personnel: Results of a longitudinal cohort study

APA Citation:

Bryan, C. J., Bryan, A. O., Baker, J. C., Ammendola, E., & Szeto, E. (2022). Burnout, surface acting, and suicidal ideation among military personnel: Results of a longitudinal cohort study. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 41(6), 593–610. https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2022.41.6.593


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Bryan, Craig J., Bryan, Annabelle O., Baker, Justin C., Ammendola, Ennio, Szeto, Edwin


Introduction: Chronic life stressors are positively correlated with suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviors among military personnel. Surface acting, a strategy that involves hiding or faking one's emotional state to match organizational expectations dictating when and how to express emotions, contributes to burnout and increased emotional distress. Because surface acting involves a form of emotional suppression, frequent use of surface acting may also contribute to suicidal ideation. Methods: One thousand seven-hundred fifty-four military personnel stationed at a U.S. military installation completed a self-report survey repeatedly administered 6 times from January 2020 to December 2021. Survey items assessed suicidal ideation, surface acting, burnout, and depression. Results: Burnout and surface acting were significantly correlated with severity of suicidal ideation. When depression was added as a covariate, surface acting but not burnout remained a statistically significant correlate of suicidal ideation. Discussion: Surface acting, a job-specific form of emotional suppression, may increase suicide risk among military personnel. Creating opportunities for military personnel to appropriately express their emotional states could mitigate suicide risk in this population.

Publication Type:



military, suicide, suicidal ideation, burnout, emotional labor, surface acting

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