Burnout is exploding… at least on Google

According to Google Trends, searches for the word “burn out” (or burnout) are at their highest in the United States. From there to conclude that the renewed interest in a term reflects an increase in the burnout syndrome, there is only one step, which is difficult to cross.

“In life”, “at work”, “at school”, searches around burnout (burnout) are increasing in all directions, reports an American site, Quartz, which analyzed data from Google Trends, a measurement tool which constitutes an interesting indicator. It is not so much the popularity of the word burn out compared to other terms that this analysis highlights as the frequency of searches around it: in this respect, the Covid-19 epidemic has therefore accelerated the increase in the number of queries around the word “burn out” (burnout) which had started to grow in 2017 in the powerful search engine. Not so surprising as we know that the virus and its consequences, in the first place confinement, have caused disarray everywhere: parents and children forced to school at home, first and especially first of chore on the bridge while the economy was almost at a standstill, teleworkers on the verge of a nervous breakdown, etc. Very early on, in the spring of 2020, the alarm bell was sounded to warn of the risks posed by this unprecedented (contemporary) crisis to mental health.

The difficult recognition of burnout

It was not until 2019 that burnout (or burnout) entered the international classification of diseases, characterized by a “feeling of exhaustion”, “cynicism or negativistic feelings related to one’s work” or “reduced work efficiency”, by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the term has been widely used since the 1970s to describe this work-related fatigue. The first to conceptualize burnout was a New York psychoanalyst named Freudenberger who described at length the symptoms of burnout among educators and nurses in free clinics who worked with drug addicts, themselves at the origin of this expression to evoke their malaise. Then two American psychologists, Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson, developed in 1981 a method of measurement, the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MIB) allowing, from 22 questions, to evaluate the state of exhaustion of carers, then to teachers and educators and finally, in a last version established in 1996, of all workers. In France, the wave of suicides at France Telecom in 2006 brutally questioned suffering at work and what were now called “psychosocial risks”. The deputy of France Insoumise François Ruffin tabled a bill in 2018, aimed at “recognizing as occupational diseases the mental pathologies” related to work, which was rejected.

⋙ Chronic fatigue, burn-out: how to overcome emotional fatigue?

In the fall of 2021, the 8th Human Footprint barometer on the psychological health of employees, based on an online survey conducted by Opinion Way among 2016 representative employees, reported significant psychological distress, however down compared to the spring. of the same year (38%, – 6 points), perhaps due to the decrease in telework, including 12% of high psychological distress (- 5 points) and a rate of depression requiring support among employees around 33 %, i.e. 3 points less. By extrapolating, this barometer concludes that 2.5 million employees are in severe burnout in France – and 20% of managers. “Unsurprisingly, the report adds, women and young people continue to be seriously affected with respectively 44% of psychological distress (33% for men) and 50% of psychological distress among those under 39.”

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