‘Burnout’ is a legitimate workplace hazard: WHO

World Health Organisation has officially redefined 'burnout' as a syndrome that requires attention.


For the first time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has added the term ‘burnout’ in its recent International Statistical Classification of Diseases and related Health Problems, a handbook of recognised medical conditions.

While WHO had always maintained that burnout was a state of vital exhaustion, this is the first time that it is being termed as a work hazard in its classification of diseases. The definition of ‘burnout’ has also been updated so that those who suffer from it can be said to be suffering from a more ‘legitimate’ condition now.

According to WHO, “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. ….refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

Though the change is not a major one, it will definitely make people realise that those suffering from burnout are facing a severe issue that requires immediate attention. This will also make it easier for people to seek timely help.

‘Burnout’ is caused due to deep-seated stress that has been neglected and left unattended. The neglect could be on the part of the patients or their employers.

WHO’s classification of ‘burnout’ specifies three components:
(i) Feeling of exhaustion or loss of energy
(ii) Feeling of negativity towards job and increasing detachment from the job
(iii) Decreasing professional efficiency

In the next three years, WHO will be developing ‘evidence-based’ guidelines for mental well-being in the workplace, and its member countries will be implementing revisions to the International Classification of Diseases.

As per the new definition, WHO requires for healthcare providers and professionals to diagnose burnout by first eliminating or ruling out anxiety, mood disorders and other stress-related disorders.

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