What is the difference between depression and burnout? An ongoing debate

Riv Psichiatr. 2018 Jul-Aug;53(4):218-219. doi: 10.1708/2954.29699.


Burnout has been viewed as a syndrome developing in response to chronically adverse working conditions. Burnout is thought to comprise emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Historically, however, burnout has been difficult to separate from depression. Indeed, the symptoms of burnout coincide with symptoms of depression. Evidence for the discriminant validity of burnout with regard to depression has been weak, both at an empirical and a theoretical level. Emotional exhaustion, the core of burnout, itself reflects a combination of depressed mood and fatigue/loss of energy and correlates very highly with other depressive symptoms. Work-related risk factors for burnout are also predictors of depression. Individual risk factors for depression (e.g., past depressive episodes) are also predictors of burnout. Overall, burnout is likely to reflect a "classical" depressive process unfolding in reaction to unresolvable stress.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Burnout, Psychological
  • Depersonalization / psychology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Humans
  • Psychiatry*