Burnout recognised as a workplace phenomenon by WHO


Although still  not classified as a recognised medical condition, burnout has been included in the World Health Organization’s 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon. It is described in the chapter: ‘Factors influencing health status or contact with health services’ – which includes reasons for which people contact health services but that are not classed as illnesses or health conditions.

Burnout is defined in ICD-11 as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

It is identifiable by three characteristics, claims the WHO:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion or increased mental distance from one’s job
  • feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • reduced professional efficacy

Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life, according to the WHO in ICD11.

The World Health Organization has also announced that is to embark on the development of evidence-based guidelines on mental wellbeing in the workplace.

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