Psychological distress and intention to leave the profession: The social and economic exchange mediating role

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The purpose of the present study was to examine the association between psychological distress among social workers and their intention to leave the profession through the economic and social exchange perspective. The research sample was comprised of 380 Israeli social workers who manually filled in structured questionnaires regarding psychological distress, economic and social exchange between employees and employers in their workplace, self-defined burnout and demographic information. The data analysis showed that higher levels of psychological distress were associated with higher economic exchange and with lower social exchange, which resulted in increased intention to leave. These findings are important for understanding the process that social workers experience regarding the emergence of psychological distress and for clarifying that this process consists of two concurrent components: increasing preoccupation with economic aspects and increasing emotional distancing from the profession. On the basis of the transactional model of stress and coping and the social and economic exchange perspectives, it would be desirable to develop an organisational culture that promotes social exchange (trust, manager support, teamwork), which would allow social workers to cope with active emotional regulation and to strengthen their sense of belonging to the profession and thus reduce their intention to leave.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)816-830
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Intention to leave
  • Psychological distress
  • Social and economic exchange
  • Social workers


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