The stress that comes with your job in this day and age is often unaccounted for. Well, not anymore.
The initial definition for the term was a “state of vital exhaustion”. Now, the World Health Organisation has officially reclassified the term ‘burnout’, defining it as the “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.”
Within the agency’s widely-used manual, known as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), burn-out will now officially be listed as an ‘occupational syndrome’.
Based on a growing body of research, the eleventh edition of the ICD now claims that this syndrome is due solely to “chronic workplace stress” and “should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.” This edition will only take effect in January 2022, but with this new announcement, burnout will be recognized as a serious health issue much sooner.
This restructuring of the parameters of the term ‘burnout’ comes at a time when it is more needed than ever. A recent report from Harvard declared physician burnout in the US is a public health crisis, potentially costing the economy $4.6 Billion a year. On the other hand, a UK survey found that nearly 30% of human resource directors thought burnout was widespread in their organization. Another study of nearly 9,000 employed adults found that workplace burn-out was a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease.
As a matter of fact, WHO‘s own research suggests that burnout occurs when the demands of a job far outweigh the rewards, recognition, and times of relaxation. Therefore, this new definition outlines the condition as “problems associated with employment” that are not technically considered illnesses but can have serious medical repercussions.
This change by WHO indicates that going forward, the health and well being of employees and workers will be taken more seriously. It also stirs an optimism that workplace conditions will improve.