The World Health Organization is recognizing burnout as an official medical condition with its inclusion in the latest version of the International Classification of Diseases.
The ICD is WHO's handbook meant to guide medical professionals in diagnosing diseases. Now, burnout from work is officially part of this collection of health conditions.
It's the first time that professional burnout has been officially categorized as a disease, according to WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic in an AFP report. The international organization agreed to include it in the updated handbook during the recently concluded World Health Assembly in Geneva.
What Is Burnout?
The WHO describes burnout as a condition "conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." It's not simple stress, but prolonged stress that has not been addressed or managed properly.
The condition classified under problems that are associated with employment or unemployment.
According to the ICD, burnout can be diagnosed with three distinct characteristics including feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance or feelings of negativism or cynicism regarding one's job; and reduced professional efficacy.
WHO also noted that burnout specifically refers to a condition experienced in the context of work. It shoudn't be used to describe various experiences in other areas of life. Additionally, other conditions such as anxiety and mood disorders should be ruled out before burnout is diagnosed.
The latest version of the ICD also lists video gaming as an official health condition, listing it as an addiction just like gambling and drugs.
More Facts About Burnout
Experts have been studying burnout for many years, especially in the field of medicine where occupational burnout is linked to lower quality in patient care and can even lead to malpractice lawsuits and loss of lives.
A recent study found that physician burnout costs the United States health care system about $4.6 billion every year, particularly in physician turnover and reduced clinical hours.
It's not just in the health industry that employees are finding themselves with frayed nerves. A Gallup study in 2018 revealed that 23 percent of employees feel burnout often or always, while 44 percent feel burnout sometimes.
Additionally, burnout have been found linked to significant health problems, including type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol, and even death for people who are under the age of 45.
According to the American Psychological Association, managing workplace stress involves identifying stressors and controlling responses to them. Healthy responses such as exercise and good sleeping habits are important as well as establishing boundaries from work and "switching off" to recharge from the grind.