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Burnout among doctors

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j3360 (Published 14 July 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3360

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Re: Burnout among doctors - a Fashionable Diagnosis?

Burnout syndrome has become an important topic in health-related economics. But more research is still needed to establish the scientific basis for this entity, the criteria by which it might be diagnosed and classified. Until now, there currently exists neither an officially accepted definition (not in ICD-10, DSM-IV or DSM-5) nor a valid instrument for the differential diagnosis of burnout syndrome. There are no controlled trials of treatments for burnout. Most of the studies on its epidemiology provide a low level of evidence.

High-quality controlled studies on burnout syndrome are lacking. A standardized and internationally accepted diagnostic instrument with a validated rating scale should be developed. There a few studies about an association of medical errors by doctors with resident distress, burnout syndrome [1] and lack of sleep. But In view of the current lack of knowledge about burnout syndrome, the term should be used more carefully. Treatments for it should be studied systematically so that their effects can be judged at a high level of evidence. There is an evident, complex relationship between burnout and depressive disorders [2]. Some authors see a burnout syndrome as a risk factor for the development of a depressive disorder [3].

1) West CP et al.: Association of perceived medical errors with resident distress and empathy: a prospective longitudinal study. J Amer Med Ass 2006; 296(9): 1071–8.
2 Ahola K et al.: The relationship between job-related burnout and depressive disorders – results from the Finnish Health 2000 Study. J Affect Dis 2005; 88: 55–62
3) Nil R et al.: Burnout – eine Standortbestimmung. Schweiz Arch Neurol Psychiatr 2010; 161: 72–7

Competing interests: No competing interests

27 July 2017
Detlef Degner
senior consultant, Psychiatrist
Department of Psychiatry, Medical School of Georg-August University, Goettingen
D-37075 Göttingen, Germany