Meeting in Geneva on 20-27 May 2019 for its 72nd session, the World Health Organization (WHO) World Assembly has taken a landmark decision. Referring to the conclusions of health experts, it has declared burn-out to be an “occupational phenomenon”, opening the door to having it classified in the WHO's International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Codenamed “QD85”, burn-out is now to be found in the section on “problems associated with employment or unemployment”.
In the words of the WHO, burn-out “specifically refers to phenomena related to the professional context and should not be used to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
The new International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) will come into force on January 1, 2022.
First identified in the 1970s, burn-out had not yet been listed in any of the international classifications (i.e, that of the WHO or the American Psychiatric Association).
The UNO’s specialist agency had initially stated that burn-out had been included as a disease in the ICD, a classification used for identifying health trends and statistics. However, the next day a WHO spokesperson issued a revised statement, saying that burn-out was going to be switched from the category “factors influencing health status” to “occupational phenomena”, though without being included in the list of “diseases”.
“Inclusion in this chapter means that burn-out is not conceptualized as a medical condition, but as an occupational phenomenon”, the spokesman clarified in a communiqué.