Harmonized definition of occupational burnout: A systematic review, semantic analysis, and Delphi consensus in 29 countries

Irina Guseva Canu, Sandy Carla Marca, Francesca Dell’Oro, Ádám Balázs, Enrico Bergamaschi, Christine Besse, Renzo Bianchi, Jovanka Bislimovska, Adrijana Koscec Bjelajac, Merete Bugge, Carmen Iliana Busneag, Çiğdem Çağlayan, Mariana Cernitanu, Cristiana Costa Pereira, Nataša Dernovšček Hafner, Nadia Droz, Maija Eglite, Lode Godderis, Harald Gündel, Jari J. HakanenRaluca Maria Iordache, Imane Khireddine-Medouni, Sibel Kiran, Francesca Larese-Filon, Catherine Lazor-Blanchet, Patrick Légeron, Tom Loney, Nicole Majery, Eda Merisalu, Ingrid Sivesind Mehlum, Laurent Michaud, Dragan Mijakoski, Jordan Minov, Alberto Modenese, Marija Molan, Henk van der Molen, Evangelia Nena, Dusan Nolimal, Marina Otelea, Elisabeta Pletea, Nurka Pranjic, David Rebergen, Jelena Reste, Eva Schernhammer, Anny Wahlen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


Objective A consensual definition of occupational burnout is currently lacking. We aimed to harmonize the definition of occupational burnout as a health outcome in medical research and reach a consensus on this definition within the Network on the Coordination and Harmonisation of European Occupational Cohorts (OMEGA-NET). Methods First, we performed a systematic review in MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Embase (January 1990 to August 2018) and a semantic analysis of the available definitions. We used the definitions of burnout and burnout-related concepts from the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine Clinical Terms (SNOMED-CT) to formulate a consistent harmonized definition of the concept. Second, we sought to obtain the Delphi consensus on the proposed definition. Results We identified 88 unique definitions of burnout and assigned each of them to 1 of the 11 original definitions. The semantic analysis yielded a first proposal, further reformulated according to SNOMED-CT and the panelists’ comments as follows: “In a worker, occupational burnout or occupational physical AND emotional exhaustion state is an exhaustion due to prolonged exposure to work-related problems”. A panel of 50 experts (researchers and healthcare professionals with an interest for occupational burnout) reached consensus on this proposal at the second round of the Delphi, with 82% of experts agreeing on it. Conclusion This study resulted in a harmonized definition of occupational burnout approved by experts from 29 countries within OMEGA-NET. Future research should address the reproducibility of the Delphi consensus in a larger panel of experts, representing more countries, and examine the practicability of the definition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-107
Number of pages13
JournalScandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Epidemiology
  • Exhaustion
  • Job stress
  • Occupational health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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