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What is Burnout?

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

The World Health Organization's (WHO's) 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) handbook (2019) defines Burnout as an "occupational phenomenon" that is a non-medical condition.



The chapter: “Factors influencing health status or contact with health services” describes reasons that do not fall under the categories of illnesses or health conditions for which individuals enlist the help of health services of which Burnout is one.


With respect to ICD-11:


“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

(i) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;

(ii) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related

to one's job; and

(iii) 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.”


Compared with the ICD-10 (2018) definition of Burnout (in the same category as in ICD-11), the latest ICD-11(2019) definition is more detailed, indicative of the WHO’s efforts to define the syndrome more clearly, which will enable more accurate assessment, evaluation and effective treatment of the syndrome in the future.


The World Health Organization is reported to currently be in the process of developing evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being for the professional workplace.


Raman Saggu, D.Phil.



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