London, 02 May 2017 – The term “burnout” has typically been used to describe as a syndrome among high-earning individuals, whose occupations are associated with elevated stress levels and long hours – such as surgeons or bankers – but a new study unveiled today at the International Conference on Addiction and Associated Disorders  (iCAAD) reveals that the majority of Britons are suffering from “first world burnout”: a condition that mimics traditional burnout, but is irrespective of income. The data, which is being uncovered at the inaugural event attended by the world’s leading experts in mental health, wellness and addiction recovery, also concludes that in addition to being left physically and emotionally drained, most Britons are living with guilt as a result of their burnout; feeling they aren’t entitled to such unhappiness when so many in less-developed countries continue to live in starvation and under threat of violent attacks.

The joint research, presented by iCAAD and Scotland’s Castle Craig Hospital was conducted by One Poll, and asked 500 respondents across the UK with yearly household incomes of £20,000 or less to £50,000 or more, whether they experienced physical or emotional exhaustion, feelings of helplessness or disillusionment from the demands of modern life, with dramatic results. 80% Britons said that they were experiencing burnout, with almost a third (27%) saying that they were regularly suffering. Additionally, 70% Britons felt guilt as a result of living in the developed world with all its modern conveniences, as opposed to less developed or war-torn nations. This sense of malaise affected the sexes almost identically, with 85% of women and 75% of men across the UK in distress, and almost three quarters of women (72.3%) and 7 out of 10 men (67%) feeling that they didn’t “deserve” to feel unhappy,compared with the life situations of others in combat zones or impoverished nations. Interestingly, those with a lower annual income routinely experienced more feelings of such guilt than those with higher incomes; with over 25% (26.2 %) of those earning less than £30,000 a year saying they often did not feel they had the “right” to feel burnt out – more than double those who earned over £50,000 a year (9.86%).

Experts say that the constant influx of “bad” news stories – such as imminent terror threats, economic downturn, and upheaval in politics; in addition to stories of global unrest and natural disasters – continue to play a large role in Britons’ daily lives, creating a sense of inescapable trauma that many have felt pressured to keep calm and carry on living with – putting them at increased risk of burnout as they negate their emotional needs.

Disconcertingly, those with incomes at the lower end of the spectrum will have less access to support services, either because the systems are not in place; take too long to access; or are inadequately funded – or that obtaining local mental health support means giving up income in order to access services during workdays. The sense of shame accompanying these negative emotions, as though their own pain is devalued due to living in a comparatively more stable, safer country than many others, further discourages Britons from validating, and subsequently coping with, their unhappiness. Experts say this is a perfect storm putting citizens at increased risk of mental health and addiction problems, while Britain’s social care system already struggles to cope with existing demands.

According to Christophe Sauerwein, psychologist and iCAAD director, the fact that burnout is affecting citizens across all income levels is direct evidence that Britain needs to make social care a key priority, particularly in the coming election. He says,

“It is important to note that burnout is not an “executive” syndrome. It is experienced when individuals are overburdened by life in general.  To some degree, certain high-earning professionals may experience less burnout, because their psyches are better rewarded, and therefore prepared for long hours and tremendous stress. However, it is clear that work lives are simply one of many factors for analysis when assessing burnout.

“It is disconcerting to see that nearly all of Britons are suffering, many of whom are vulnerable. For instance, lower income groups may have diminished access to mental health support and limited or very little resources to seek help privately; and women with children are particularly at risk, due to the multiple roles they must perform on top of the pressure of meeting highly-stressful societal expectations. This stress mostly affects their ability to perform, breeding concerns of secondary impacts of burnout falling on their children  – creating more guilt and pressure.

“Britons’ guilt, that they are not entitled to feel burnt-out due to living in a first world nation, is a major block to society’s acceptance of burnout as a normal response to extreme and ongoing stress, which can discourage individuals from reaching out for help.  No marathon runner would experience guilt for being on his knees after the 42nd kilometre of race; he or she would see it as normal. It is imperative that Britons begin to view burnout in the same way.

“If we do not address these issues as a matter of urgency, the people of Britain will increasingly suffer without adequate systems in place to help them heal, giving rise to increased mental health and addiction concerns, while the broken record of “keep calm and carry on” plays on.  It is therefore important that when treating individuals for burnout, clinicians also address the issue of guilt; chiefly, making patients aware that guilt is when one has done something wrong knowingly, not when one is a powerless victim of modern life’s stressful constraints.”

Dr Margaret Ann McCann, founder and Chief Executive of Castle Craig Hospital discusses the co-incidence of untreated trauma and addiction;

“There is a distinct connection between repressed emotional trauma and addiction. People from Britain who are filled with shame and deep inner conflict due to traumatic experiences are at risk of developing addiction to alcohol and drugs. The longer a person suffers from co-occurring trauma and addiction, the harder it is to treat their condition. This can lead to substance abuse as a means of coping with the unresolved pain and emotional anguish.

“Therapy enables these traumatic memories to surface and to be explored and resolved at the same time as treating the addiction.”


The International Conference on Addiction and Associated Disorders (iCAAD) is an international platform dedicated to expanding knowledge, exchanging ideas and advancing the industry in the prevention and treatment of emotional, behavioural and mental health issues. iCAAD’s first three-day conference will run on 1st, 2nd and ‪3rd May 2017 at Royal Garden Hotel. In addition to the London conference, iCAAD has presented a series of international pop-ups, so far in Paris and Rome. For media enquiries only please contact Nikki Milovanovic on ‪0207 250 4750 or nmilovanovic@wavelengthgroup.com


Castle Craig is a world-renowned residential rehab clinic that treats alcohol and drug addiction. Established in 1988, it is Scotland’s oldest and one of Europe’s leading inpatient addiction clinics. Its expert medical team of doctors, nurses and therapists is led by a team of consultant psychiatrists and a medical director.