‘Burnout’ is now officially a medically-recognised syndrome

Burn Out is now an official medical diagnosis, says the World Health Organisation.

Researchers have called it "one of the most widely discussed mental health problems in modern societies" and noted the prevalence rate of up to 69% in some groups, such as medical professionals. Even though the term was coined in 1974 by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, burnout lacked a true diagnosis until now (May 2019).

This condition is now classified as "a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed," in the WHO's International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) under "Problems associated with employment or unemployment."

We have all felt this at some point and it's common in any work environment to hear people throw around the word "burnout" when they are feeling strung out, over-stressed and underappreciated. But what does burnout really mean?



WHO defines burnout as:

 Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:

1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;

2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and

3) reduced professional efficacy.

 Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.


 The Damaging Effects of Stress

Whether at the executive level or client-facing, each employee’s ability to handle stress affects the bottom line, both directly and indirectly.

The statistics are alarming, and the reality is that burnout costs employers millions, every year:

In Victoria, stress is the second most common cause of workplace compensation.

•         Beyond Blue reports that depression and anxiety cost Australian businesses about $10.9 billion a year.

•         The cost of absenteeism in Australia is estimated at $7 billion each year, while the cost of presenteeism (not fully functioning at work because of medical conditions) is nearly four times more, estimated at almost $26 billion in 2005–06 (Medibank Private. (2005). The Health of Australia’s Workforce.)

•         The average total cost of a mental stress claim is $140,000. (Source: Aust. Govt. Compendium of OHS and Workers’ Compensation Statistics, 2009.)

Stress is a significant cost to companies across the developed world: it’s estimated that in Australia, US, UK and Germany, $200-$300 billion a year is lost on:

•         absenteeism

•         employee turnover

•         diminished productivity

•         accidents, and

•         medical, legal and insurance fees

Additionally, stress is now shown to be responsible for 80% of all diseases and illnesses. In the US, 60%-90% of all visits to doctors relate to stress.


 Healthy Employees = Healthy Business

Employers who are able to get ahead of the burnout curve or support employees facing this condition will gain a distinct advantage over their competitors in many areas.

Not only will employees be healthier and happier, but they will be more productive, have reduced absenteeism, deliver better quality service to customers and clients and have significantly more loyalty to the organisation.

The ROI of a successful health and well-being program in the workplace is hard to ignore.

•         Every dollar invested in workplace health and wellness has been shown to bring a return of $3-$6 (Sax Institute, 2008)

•         Effective programs can reduce absenteeism by 25%, and decrease worker’s compensation costs by 41%, representing a $5.81 saving for every $1 invested (HAPIA, 2010)

•         Productivity can be increased by up to 15% (AIHW, 2010)

•         Employee engagement is 5 times more likely in organisations with a focus on well-being (AIHW, 2010)

 Given these stats on workplace stress and this new classification, burnout is something employers must start taking seriously and addressing pragmatically.

 Our seminars and programs are designed to directly reduce the cost of stress in the workplace and the impact of its burden on the physical, mental and emotional well-being of employees and executives alike.

 Be in touch if you’d like to discuss how you can prevent burnout in your organisation.

 To quote Richard Branson: “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business”.

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 Author: Tegan Wallis

Tegan is a Naturopath, Ayurveda Health Consultant and Yoga Teacher at Griffith Consulting's sister company, Veda Wellness.

Tegan is one of Griffith Consulting's key program facilitators and specialises in workplace health & wellness. 

For more information about Tegan or her services, please go to: www.vedawellness.com.au 


Breegan Gloury