Burnout is a legitimate medical diagnosis, says World Health Organisation

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The world’s peak medical body has included burnout in their guidebook for diagnostic classifications.

The Feed presents ‘Burnout: The dark side of hustle’ 8:30pm Thursday on SBS VICELAND.

Burnout -- a response to prolonged stress at work that typically involves emotional exhaustion, detachment and feeling ineffective -- has been classified as an official medical diagnosis by the World Health Organisation.

The decision to include burnout in WHO’s International Classification of Diseases was reached during the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week.

Burnout is applicable only in the workplace, WHO says, and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Before a diagnosis is made, doctors should be careful to rule out adjustment disorder, anxiety and other mood-related disorders.

‘Significant inclusion’

Professor Alexander Newman from the Deakin Business School said the classification could improve work-life balance for workers and allow sufferers to take sick-leave.

“I believe WHO classifying workplace burnout as an official medical diagnosis will lead business organisations to take work-life balance more seriously, and implement wellbeing programs to prevent workplace burnout,” he said.

“The classification will also allow more individuals to obtain a medical diagnosis for workplace burnout, which will enable them to take time off on sick leave to recover.”

What is burnout?

The six main risk factors for work burnout are having an overwhelming workload, limited control, unrewarding work, unfair work, work that conflicts with values and a lack of community in the workplace.

People who have to navigate complex, contradictory and sometimes hostile environments are more vulnerable to burnout.

Management strategies remain quite unclear, however should be targeted to individual sufferers. This means addressing the unique stressors that contribute to burnout in each person.

At 8:30pm this Thursday on SBS VICELAND, The Feed travels to the US to investigate the dark side of hustle culture.