WHO classifies 'burnout' as an official medical diagnosis

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Every year, hard-working Americans spend up to $190 billion in health care to quell a wide array of symptoms spawned from feelings of depletion, reduced professional efficacy, feelings of negativity and cynicism toward their job and increased mental distance from the profession they may have once treasured.

While in years past it may have fallen between the cracks of medical conditions, or given a different umbrella name, medical professionals can now make the legitimate diagnosis of “burnout.”


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the term has been included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases as an “occupational phenomenon.”

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

WHO also announced that it would be releasing evidence-based guidelines concerning mental well-being in the workplace.

A Gallup poll last year revealed that an estimated 23 percent of employees reported feeling burned out at work “very often or always,” and a further 44 percent reported feeling burned out “sometimes.”

Nonetheless, the concept of “burnout” has long been a bone of contention among scholars and medical professionals.

In 1974, psychology researcher Herbert Freudenberger became the first to coin the term in a journal paper, having studied the residual impact of excessive stress and workplace demands on individuals, with many resulting symptoms drawing comparisons to depression.

Other leaders and professionals have since espoused differing views, dismissing the concept altogether.

"I don't really believe in burnout. A lot of people work really hard for decades and decades, like Winston Churchill and Einstein,” then-Yahoo! CEO Marisa Mayer stated in a 2012 public appearance.

"Burnout is about resentment," she added. "It's about knowing what matters to you so much that [it is] if you don't get it that you're resentful."