The paper analyses the use of the concept of ‘burnout,’ since the development of its use in the 1970s, focusing on how its meaning varies with context and the intentions of those using the term. One of the key ideas is that, in some countries, burnout is used as a medical diagnosis, in countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands, while in others, it is a non-medical terms. The latter implies having less stigma in terms of the need for psychiatric diagnosis.
The article strives to explain why the concept of burnout started to gain momentum in the USA and elsewhere in the mid-1970s and has remained such an important topic ever since. The authors suggest that its development seems related to the transitioning from an industrial to a service economy.
In the 21st century, burnout has been increasingly conceptualized as an erosion of engagement, which can be solved if proper measures are instituted to ensure work engagement. It remains to be seen if organizations are willing to ensure the needed resources to maintain exemplary efforts from their employees.