WHO recognises burnout as medical condition

The World Health Organisation defines burn-out as "a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed".
The World Health Organisation defines burn-out as "a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed".PHOTO: ST FILE

GENEVA • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has for the first time recognised burnout in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is widely used as a benchmark for diagnosis and health insurers.

The decision, reached during the World Health Assembly in Geneva which wraps up today, could help put to rest decades of debate among experts over how to define burnout, and whether it should be considered a medical condition.

In the latest update of its catalogue of diseases and injuries around the world, the WHO defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

It said the syndrome 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.

“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 classification.

The updated ICD list, dubbed ICD-11, was drafted last year following recommendations from health experts around the world, and was approved last Saturday.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters that this is the first time burnout has been included in the classification.

 
 

The ICD-11 takes effect in January 2022.

AFP

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2019, with the headline 'WHO recognises burnout as medical condition'. Print Edition | Subscribe