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WHO: Burnout Is A Medical Condition

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Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress at work.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) now recognises ‘burnout’ as a medical condition in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The ICD is widely used by medical providers in diagnosing diseases.


The decision, reached during the World Health Assembly in Geneva, includes burn-out as a medical condition. This lays to rest the years of debate over how to define burn-out and whether to consider it a medical condition.


WHO defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”



According to the classification,

“Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context. It should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”


One can diagnose burnout by three symptoms:

  • 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.


WHO also sends six major risk factors for work burnout. They include an overwhelming workload, limited control, unrewarding or unfair work. The other risk factors also include work that conflicts with values and a lack of community in the workplace. Workplace burnout is most likely to occur among people who have to navigate complex, contradictory and sometimes hostile environments.


WHO on burnout


At times, the stress at the workplace reaches a point where a person slips into depression and other mental issues. Raising the red flag at the workplace regarding stress might subsequently help in curbing the pressure and provide a healthier space to work at.


The updated ICD list, dubbed ICD-11, will take effect in January 2022.

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