According to the World Health Organization (WHO), occupational burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic work-related stress, with symptoms 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." While burnout may influence health and can be a reason for people contacting health services, it is not itself classified by the WHO as a medical condition or mental disorder. The World Health Organization states that "Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life."
|A person who is experiencing psychological stress|
In 1974, Herbert Freudenberger, an American psychologist, coined the term "burnout"[dubious ] and was the first researcher to publish in a scientific journal research on the syndrome. The paper was based on his observations of the volunteer staff (including himself) at a free clinic for drug addicts. He characterized burnout by a set of symptoms that includes exhaustion resulting from work's excessive demands as well as physical symptoms such as headaches and sleeplessness, "quickness to anger," and closed thinking. He observed that the burned-out worker "looks, acts, and seems depressed." After the publication of Freudenberger's original paper, interest in occupational burnout grew. Wolfgang Kaskcha has written on the early documentation of the subject. Because the phrase "burnt-out" was part of the title of the 1961 Graham Greene novel A Burnt-Out Case, which dealt with a doctor working in the Belgian Congo with patients who had leprosy, the phrase was likely in use outside the psychology literature before Freudenberger employed it. Wolfgang Kaskcha has written on the early documentation of the subject.
Christina Maslach described burnout in terms of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (treating clients, students, customers, or colleagues in a distant and/or cynical way), and reduced feelings of work-related personal accomplishment. In 1981, Maslach and Susan Jackson published an instrument for assessing burnout, the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). It is the first such instrument of its kind and the most widely used burnout instrument. The MBI originally focused on human service professionals (e.g., teachers, social workers). Since that time, the MBI has been used for a wider variety of workers (e.g., healthcare workers). The instrument or its variants are now employed with job incumbents working in many other occupations. The WHO adopted a conceptualization of burnout that is consistent with Maslach's, although the organization does not treat burnout as a mental disorder.
Maslach advanced the idea that burnout should not be viewed as depression. Moreover, the World Health Organization does not recognize burnout as a medical or psychiatric condition. A meta-analysis by Koutsimani et al. suggests that burnout and depression are different constructs although they found that correlation of burnout and depression was 0.75, very high for social science research, but still far from 1.00 (the highest a correlation can be is 1.00). Other recent meta-analytic research indicates that burnout may be best viewed as a depressive syndrome. Confirmatory factor-analytic evidence indicates that the exhaustion component of burnout is more highly related to depression than the depersonalization and personal accomplishment components. Further research is needed.