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WHO classifies burnout an “occupational phenomenon”

Tuesday, 11 June, 2019 - 17:15
Industry news
National News

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified burnout as “an occupational phenomenon” in its 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), a handbook which provides medical providers with guidelines for making a diagnosis.

According to the WHO, burnout is not a medical condition or illness, but it is a “factor influencing health status or contact with health services” – which means that people might reach out to doctors or other health professionals because of issues relating to it.

Burnout is defined by WHO as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” and is characterised by three dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

While these symptoms may also be visible in non-work-related situations (like feeling overwhelmed with housework and family obligations, for example), WHO said that this diagnosis should only be used in an occupational context.

Health professionals should also first rule out mood and anxiety disorders before making this diagnosis, according to WHO, which is about to embark on the development of evidence-based guidelines on mental wellbeing in the workplace.