WHO Classifies Burn-Out as an "Occupational Phenomenon"

Published June 6, 2019

​The 11th revision of the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, ICD-11, defines “burn-out” as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” A less detailed definition of burn-out was included in the previous revision of ICD. WHO describes ICD as the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions and the diagnostic classification standard for all clinical and research purposes.

According to WHO, burn-out is not classified as a medical condition. ICD-11 stresses that burn-out “refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life” and is characterized by 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.

WHO’s press release on burn-out and ICD-11 indicates the organization’s intention to begin developing evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace.

ICD-11 is available on WHO’s website. Users can access the entry on burn-out directly.