Burnout is now classified by the World Health Organization

WHO has added burnout to its international classification of diseases, giving it an ICD-11 code, the organization announced May 28. While WHO noted burnout is an occupational phenomenon and not a medical condition, it is notable that symptoms can affect health status.

The classification comes after a recent study quantified that physician burnout comes at an estimated annual cost of about $4.6 billion in the U.S. as a result of turnover and reduced clinical hours. Other recent studies have found that nearly half of physicians report at least one symptom of burnout. In the healthcare space, burnout can have a particularly negative effect, by impacting the quality of care and outcomes of patients that medical professionals serve.

According to WHO, burnout is a syndrome caused by unmanageable, chronic workplace stress. It has three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism; and reduced professional efficacy.

WHO is preparing to develop evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace, the international association stated.

The issue of burnout in healthcare is so prevalent that many new companies and established organizations are taking on new initiatives to combat the symptoms long-term. One physician scheduling company is taking on a study to analyze one million physician shift hours to understand the root causes of burnout. Recently, the American Hospital Association released a playbook for healthcare organizations to tackle burnout in the industry, with step-by-step outlines for promising actions.