Study: Sources of stress among workers

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In 2010, about 27% of working adults, roughly 3.7 million people, described their lives on most days as 'quite a bit' or 'extremely' stressful, meaning that they went through a regular day feeling a high level of stress. Another 6.3 million (46%) said they were 'a bit' stressed.

This study shows that highly stressed workers' demographic and socioeconomic characteristics differed depending on the source of their stress.

In fact, about 62% of those highly stressed workers identified work as the main source of their stress. These individuals were generally well-educated—almost three-quarters had a college or university education—and were employed in white-collar occupations. They also reported household incomes of $100,000 or more. The majority were men and the largest group was aged 35 to 49.

Other main sources of stress cited by highly stressed workers were financial concerns and not having enough time, both reported by 12%, while family matters (8%), and personal and other issues (6%) made up the balance. These proportions were similar to those reported in 2005 by highly stressed workers.

Working adults whose high level of stress was due mainly to financial concerns were much less likely than the highly work-stressed to have a postsecondary education. Almost 4 in 10 worked in sales or services; 29% were employed in white-collar occupations. They had a much higher probability of being self-employed, and were twice as likely to have a household income below $60,000.

Workers who were highly stressed because they did not have enough time were more likely than the work-stressed to live in a two-parent family with children. In most other respects, they were very similar to the work-stressed; that is, they were well-educated, generally held white-collar jobs and tended to have higher incomes.

Women accounted for two-thirds of highly stressed workers who identified family as their main source of stress. Compared to the work stressed, the highly stressed workers were more likely to have children at home, to have less than postsecondary education (38%) and to be immigrants who had settled in Canada in the 30 years preceding the survey.

Workers highly stressed for personal reasons were much the same as the work-stressed, except that they were less likely to live with children and less likely to have high incomes.

Note: Data for this article came from the 2010 General Social Survey (GSS) on Time Use that interviewed Canadians aged 15 or older living in the 10 provinces. The time-use cycle of the GSS monitored changes in time use, including time-stress and well-being. This study focused on adults aged 20 to 64 who had a job in the seven days prior to the survey and who reported that, on most days, their lives were 'quite a bit' or 'extremely' stressful. The study population comprised a sample of more than 1,750 respondents representing almost 3.7 million adults.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4503.

The article "What's stressing the stressed? Main sources of stress among workers" is now available in the October 2011 online issue of Canadian Social Trends, no. 92 (11-008-X, free), available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (613-951-8116; toll-free 1-800-263-1136;, Communications Division.