In the light of social change and a transformation in the work situation, interest in the problem of burnout has grown over the past decade. There is a conspicuous discrepancy, however, between what is regarded as certain knowledge and what is published opinion. To date, there is no generally accepted definition of burnout, or binding diagnostic criteria. According to the most common description at present, burnout syndrome is characterized by exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced satisfaction in performance. Because of its aetiopathogenesis, burnout is today mainly regarded as the result of chronic stress which has not been successfully dealt with. This paper gives an overview of the current definition for burnout syndrome and states possible contemporary hypotheses for its aetiology. By examining diagnostic criteria and possible therapies, methods of prevention are discussed. There is an urgent need for further investigations to determine whether burnout syndrome is a work-related disease.