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Health Reports: Job satisfaction, stress and depression

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The Daily

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The vast majority of Canadian workers were satisfied with their jobs in 2002, but about 1 in 12 (around 1.3 million) were not, according to a new study.

Data from the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey, which focused on mental health and well-being, show that just over 6% of workers were "not too satisfied," and 2% were "not at all satisfied."

The article "Unhappy on the job," published in the latest edition of Health Reports, revealed that relatively high proportions of men and women who worked in sales or service, or processing, manufacturing or utilities, were unhappy on the job. The same was true for men in administrative, financial or clerical jobs. Job stress, shift work and lower incomes were all factors associated with job dissatisfaction.

A second article, "Stress and depression in the employed population," examined stress levels among the employed population aged 18 to 75, and assessed links between stress and depression.

Depression stands out as a major occupational health issue. Just over one million adults had experienced a major depressive episode in the year before the survey interview. Of these people, 7 in 10 were employed during that year.

For workers of both sexes, high stress on and off the job was associated with depression.

However, the mental health of male workers was more vulnerable to stress arising from the work environment.

Shift workers more likely to be dissatisfied

Men and women who worked evening or night shifts were more likely to be dissatisfied than were those with regular day-time schedules, according to the study, "Unhappy on the job."

As could be expected, money made a difference, although the link to personal income was stronger for men. While 15% of men whose annual incomes were less than $20,000 were dissatisfied with their jobs, this was the case for under 5% of men whose incomes were at least $60,000.

This study found clear associations between the amount of job stress workers perceived and their job satisfaction.

Note to readers

The information in this release is from two articles in the latest edition of Health Reports. "Unhappy on the job" presents results of the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health and Well-being. "Stress and depression in the employed population" also uses data from that survey as well as longitudinal results from the 1994/1995 to 2002/2003 National Population Health Survey.

Among workers who found most days extremely stressful, 1 in 4 were dissatisfied with their jobs. By contrast, among those for whom stress was not really an issue, only 1 in 15 was dissatisfied.

This study also found that relatively large percentages of workers who were dissatisfied with their jobs rated their physical and mental health as fair or poor, compared with workers who were satisfied.

Job dissatisfaction was related to the number of disability days workers had taken in the past two weeks. The average number of days taken by workers who were dissatisfied was almost three times that for workers who were very satisfied with their jobs.

Stress common among workers

The article, "Stress and depression in the employed population," examines stress levels among employed Canadians and shows how stress is associated with depression.

In 2002, substantial numbers of workers reported that they were exposed to stress on the job and in their day-to-day lives.

High job strain, that is, when the demands of a job outweigh the freedom to make decisions or apply skills, was reported by 19% of male workers and 27% of female workers.

About 17% of male workers and 16% of female workers reported low supervisor support, and close to a third of each sex reported low co-worker support. About one-quarter of workers reported high levels of general stress in their daily lives.

Stress related to depression

According to the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey, just over one million adults aged 18 or older had experienced a major depressive episode in the year before the survey. More than 70% of these people were employed in that year.

For workers of both sexes, high stress on and off the job was associated with depression.

Men in high strain jobs were 2.5 times more likely than their counterparts in low strain jobs to have experienced depression; women were 1.6 times more likely.

Male and female workers who considered most days to be quite a bit or extremely stressful were over three times as likely to have suffered a major depressive episode, compared with those who reported low levels of general stress.

Low support from co-workers was associated with a higher prevalence of depression for each sex. Low supervisor support was associated with depression among women.

However, sources of stress do not necessarily occur in isolation. When various sources of stress were considered simultaneously, along with other possible influences, high job strain was associated with depression for men, but not for women. High general day-to-day stress and low co-worker support were associated with higher odds of depression for each sex.

This study also looked at the relationship between stress and the incidence of depression over a two-year period, using longitudinal data from the first five cycles of the National Population Health Survey.

Among men, only job strain was associated with new cases of depression. Among women, new cases of depression were associated with high personal stress and low co-worker support.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of these two articles, contact Margot Shields (613-951-4177;, Health Statistics Division.

This edition of Health Reports contains two other articles. "Government-subsidized home care" examines trends between 1994/1995 and 2003 in the proportion of Canadians receiving this type of home care, and how the characteristics of recipients have changed. "Seniors' use of home care" focuses on home care recipients aged 65 or older and looks at their personal characteristics, the services they receive, and the sources of that care. For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of these articles, contact Kathryn Wilkins (613-951-1769;, Health Statistics Division.

Complete versions of all four Health Reports articles appear in the latest issue of Health Reports, Vol. 17, no. 4 (82-003-XIE, free), now available from the Publications module of our website. A printed version (82-003-XPE, $22/$63) is also available.

For more information about Health Reports, contact Christine Wright (613-951-1765;, Health Statistics Division.