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Work stress among health care providers

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The questions
Data source and limitations


occupational health, workload, health occupations


Kathryn Wilkins
Health Information and Research Division
Statistics Canada
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0T6
Telephone: 613-951-1769


According to data from the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), nearly one in three employed Canadians, about 5.1 million, reported that most days at work were “quite” or “extremely” stressful. This article focuses on workers entrusted with providing health care to Canadians.  [Full text]  

The questions

Occupation was defined using the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) 1991 – Canada.  “Health occupations” is one of 10 occupational sectors defined by the SOC.

The estimates for work stress were based on responses to the question, “The next question is about your main job or business in the past 12 months.  Would you say that most days at work were:  not at all stressful, not very stressful, a bit stressful, quite stressful, or extremely stressful?”  Respondents who indicated either of the last two categories were classified as reporting high work stress.

Day-to-day stress was assessed by the question, “Thinking about the amount of stress in your life, would you say that most days are not at all stressful, not very stressful, a bit stressful, quite stressful, or extremely stressful?”  Respondents who indicated either of the last two categories were classified as reporting high day-to-day stress. 

Life satisfaction was measured by the question, “How satisfied are you with your life in general? very satisfied? satisfied? neither satisfied nor dissatisfied? dissatisfied? very dissatisfied?” 

Self-perceived general health was measured by asking, “In general, would you say your physical health is excellent? very good? good? fair? poor?”

Data source and limitations

Estimates are based on data from the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) (cycle 2.1).  The CCHS is a general health survey that collects cross-sectional information about the health of Canadians every two years.  It covers the non-institutionalized household population aged 12 or older in all provinces and territories, except members of the regular Canadian Forces and residents of Indian reserves, Canadian Forces bases, and some remote areas.  In cycle 2.1, the overall response rate was 80.6%; the total sample size was 135,573 respondents.  Of these, 75,184 respondents were aged 18 to 75 and had worked at some time during the year; 4,551 reported that they had worked in a health occupation.  Job categories in the health care sector for which sample size was sufficient were included in the analysis.  The analysis was based on weighted data from these respondents.

To account for survey design effects, standard errors and coefficients of variation were estimated using the bootstrap technique.3-5

The data used for this analysis are self-reported and not validated according to any external source.  Perceptions of work stress may vary depending on factors that were not measured in the CCHS, such as an individual’s resilience, outlook or other personal or socio-cultural traits. 

Because the study is based on cross-sectional data, a cause-and-effect relationship between job category and stress cannot be inferred.  Although it is probable that some jobs are more stressful than others, it also may be that people who are more likely to report high stress are also more likely to be employed in certain jobs.


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