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Burnout: 35 years of research and practice

Wilmar B. Schaufeli (Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Michael P. Leiter (Acadia University, Wolfville, Canada)
Christina Maslach (University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 19 June 2009




The purpose of this paper is to focus on the career of the burnout concept itself, rather than reviewing research findings on burnout.


The paper presents an overview of the concept of burnout.


The roots of the burnout concept seem to be embedded within broad social, economic, and cultural developments that took place in the last quarter of the past century and signify the rapid and profound transformation from an industrial society into a service economy. This social transformation goes along with psychological pressures that may translate into burnout. After the turn of the century, burnout is increasingly considered as an erosion of a positive psychological state. Although burnout seems to be a global phenomenon, the meaning of the concept differs between countries. For instance, in some countries burnout is used as a medical diagnosis, whereas in other countries it is a non‐medical, socially accepted label that carries a minimum stigma in terms of a psychiatric diagnosis.


The paper documents that the exact meaning of the concept of burnout varies with its context and the intentions of those using the term.



Schaufeli, W.B., Leiter, M.P. and Maslach, C. (2009), "Burnout: 35 years of research and practice", Career Development International, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 204-220.



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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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