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Burnout is now officially a medically-recognized syndrome
Medical science finally acknowledges what workers have known for years.
- The World Health Organization has finally declared burnout a real syndrome with medical consequences.
- The condition, discussed in medical literature since the '70s, is well known and has affected millions.
- Treating burnout isn't so simple, and requires organizational changes.
Everybody has heard of burnout. Given how high workplace stress levels have risen over the past few years, it would be more shocking to come across somebody who hasn't. The notion is ingrained into our cultural consciousness and may define a generation.
Despite all of this, it was only this month that the WHO officially recognized occupational burnout as a syndrome that could drive people to seek medical care.
In a press release, the WHO explained that "burn-out" will be included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), a guide for diagnosing diseases. It will be included in a chapter focusing on "Factors influencing health status or contact with health services." They are careful to note that it is not being included as a medical condition by itself, but rather as a reason people seek out mental health care.
So, how did they define it?
The WHO offered a direct quote from the ICD:
They further explained that these symptoms must be specifically work-related. Feeling burned out from anything else doesn't count. This definition is a refinement of the previous definition used in the 10th edition of the ICD that better identifies the phenomenon while still asserting it is not a medical condition in and of itself.
Why did it take so long to identify this condition? It seems pretty straightforward.
There are a couple of probable reasons for this delay.
First, the idea of burnout isn't that old. The first medical report on the topic dates back to 1974 when psychologist Herbert Freudenberger used the term to describe symptoms of "physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress." A slightly older use of the term to describe similar symptoms appeared in a book in 1961. Despite this evidence that the idea had been floating around for a while, it took until 1981 for a test to be created that could determine if somebody was suffering from burnout.
While 50 years might seem like plenty of time for medical science to agree on if something exists or not, remember that medical science often moves slowly in the hopes of being accurate.
It also doesn't help that many of the symptoms of burnout overlap with the symptoms of depression. This has made the term "burnout" controversial over the years, as many researchers have argued it is merely a subset of depression rather than a separate condition. These lingering concerns may explain the very narrow definition used above.
That’s interesting and all, but how do I avoid/treat burnout? I’m asking for a friend.
Treating burnout is difficult but not impossible. The three symptoms listed above are funny in those things that improve one often have little affect on the others. Interventions such as CBT-therapy have shown some promise in helping treat the condition, but it isn't a silver bullet. Another method that tested well was giving burned out workers more control over their job.
The better option is preventing it rather than treating it. The individual can only do so much in the way of prevention, but effective measures include eating well, sleeping enough, keeping stress at a manageable level, setting proper boundaries, and having relaxing rituals. Knowing how much you can and can't handle almost goes without saying.
However, in the book The Truth About Burnout: How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What to do About it psychologists Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter argue that the best any individual can do is manage the symptoms and that it takes organizational changes to properly treat the condition.
Curative measures can include better expression of company values, a stronger sense of community, and providing support for workers so they don't feel overwhelmed by their workload. Measures like these can pay for themselves by preventing drops in productivity.
Other thinkers, such as sociologist Eric Blanc, argue that burnout is best prevented by system change. In his VICE interview and book Red State Revolt: The Teachers' Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics, Blanc suggests increasing unionization rates and cutting working hours as a route to improving the working conditions that make burnout a common occurrence.
His ideas are well grounded in reality, a recent experiment in Sweden showed just how dramatically a shorter workday improved the lives of workers and the data on how unions improve the conditions of working people is vast.
He also remarks on how our definition of burnout as an ailment might not be entirely sound in all cases, saying: "I think it's pretty rational to be burnt out at a job like Target, and it's a pretty rational response to not want to work as hard as your bosses might want you to all day long."
Similar notions were expressed by Buzzfeed's Anne Petersen, who wrote that "We are beginning to understand what ails us, and it's not something an oxygen facial or a treadmill desk can fix…. Change might come from legislation, or collective action, or continued feminist advocacy, but it's folly to imagine it will come from companies themselves."
Burnout, well known as a real condition by millions of overworked Americans for decades now, has been recognized by the medical community as a legitimate reason for seeking help. This may open the doors to better treatment for those who suffer from the condition over the next few years.
While fixing the problem of too much workplace stress and an inability balance work and home life will take more than just a definition in a medical text, it may prove to be the first step on the way to a more relaxed world.
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Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.
- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
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Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
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