The World Health Organization (WHO) is bringing more attention to the problem of work-related stress, by updating its definition of burnout in the new version of its handbook of diseases, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which will go into effect in January 2022. The ICD is used globally as a benchmark for health diagnosis.
Following recommendations from health experts around the world, the updated ICD list was drafted in 2018 and approved in May 2019.
The new definition refers to burnout as a “syndrome”, specifically linking it to “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The WHO doesn’t classify the problem as a medical condition, but calls burnout an “occupational phenomenon” and includes it in a chapter on “factors influencing health status or contact with health services.”
“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 WHO says that burnout syndrome is characterized 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.