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‘Burn-out’ recognised in the International Classification of Diseases

For the first time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) have officially classified workplace burn-out as an occupational phenomenon, in its latest revision of the International Classification of Diseases.

Burn-out was previously defined as a ‘state of vital exhaustion’ but the term has now been directly linked as a work hazard, in its classification of diseases.

The agency defines ‘burn-out is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’, and is classified by three factors:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feeling of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job;
  • and reduced professional efficacy


The syndrome is not a medical condition, but it has been included as a cause for which people may contact health services for a reason other than an illness or health condition.

The WHO plan to develop evidence-based guidelines for mental well-being in the workplace and member nations are set to implement the revisions to the International Classification of Diseases by 2022.

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