WHO: Three Dimensions of Burnout

The World Health Organization or WHO included burnout in the 2019 iteration of its International Classification of Diseases or IDC-11. It specifically defined the condition as a phenomenon applied in an occupation context, and thus, a syndrome conceptualized resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

Note that the organization limited the application of burnout in an occupational context. In other words, it reminded that its definition and classification as a syndrome should not be applied to experiences in other areas of life. Nevertheless, included in the description are three dimensions identified and defined by WHO

The Three Dimensions of Burnout According to the World Health Organization

According to the World Health Organization, three dimensions characterize burnout. Take note of the following: (1) Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; (2) Increased mental distance from the job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to the job; and (3) Reduced professional efficacy.

These dimensions need to be present to consider a specific physical and mental state as a burnout. Of course, it is also important to reiterate the fact that such a state should be related to the occupation of the person.

Understanding the Inclusion of Burnout in the International Classification of Diseases

The 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases or ICD-11 was drafted in response to recommendations from health experts from around the globe. The goal was to end the debate over how to define burnout and whether it should be regarded as a medical condition.

According to the WHO, burnout is not a medical condition or a specific disease but rather, a syndrome and an occupational phenomenon. However, the inclusion to ICD-11 means that it could be addressed and acknowledged by healthcare providers and insurers.


  • World Health Organization. 2019. “QD85 Burn-Out.” ICD-11 For Mortality and Morbidity Statistics. World Health Organization. Available online
  • World Health Organization. 2019. “Burn-Out an ‘Occupational Phenomenon’ – International Classification of Diseases.” WHO Health Topics. World Health Organization. Available online
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