AIMS: Most studies on burnout have been cross-sectional and focused on specific occupations. In the present study we prospectively investigated the association between demands, control, support and conflicts as well as downsizing and emotional exhaustion in men and women derived from a representative sample of the working population in Sweden. METHODS: The study comprised working men (1,511) and women (1,493), who participated in the Swedish Work Environment Survey (SWES) in 2003 and had no physical exhaustion and prior sick leave at baseline. These participants were followed up in 2006 as part of the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH). Demands, decision authority, support from fellow workers and superiors, conflicts with fellow workers and superiors, and downsizing were utilized as predictors and the Maslach Burnout Inventory subscale of emotional exhaustion as the outcome in multiple logistic regression analyses. RESULTS: High demands were a highly significant predictor of symptoms of emotional exhaustion (>/=75th percentile). Downsizing and lack of support from superiors were also independent predictors for men as well as lack of support from fellow workers and low decision authority for women. CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that high demands, low decision authority, lack of support at work and downsizing could be important predictors of emotional exhaustion symptoms among working men and women.