In a study published in a recent issue of Critical Care Medicine, Colville and Smith (2017) found modest overlap between burnout and depression and assumed that burnout and depression are distinct entities. For four reasons, we think that the study is seriously flawed. First, Colville and Smith assessed burnout symptoms with an abbreviated version of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), the psychometric properties of which are unclear. Second, they used clinically and theoretically arbitrary cutoff scores for categorizing burnout, a modus operandi that, unfortunately, has become commonplace in studies of medical professionals. Third, participants could be categorized as “burned out” without showing any sign of exhaustion—a troubling choice given that, as emphasized by Maslach et al,(2001) “exhaustion is a necessary criterion for burnout” (p. 403). Finally, Colville and Smith overlooked basic similarities between burnout and depression.
Schonfeld, I.S., Laurent, E., & Bianchi, R. (2018). Burnout research: Eyes wide shut. Critical Care Medicine, 46, e179–e180. doi:10.1097/CCM.0000000000002795