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7 Self-Perceived Work Stress

Description | Specific Indicators | Corresponding Mandatory Objectives | Corresponding National Indicators | Data Sources |  Alternative Data Sources | ICD Codes | Analysis Check List | Method of Calculation |  Basic Categories | Indicator Comments | Cross-References to Other Sections | References | Other References


  • Proportion of the working population aged 20-64 who self-reported that most days at work were “quite a bit stressful” or “extremely stressful” in the past 12 months.

Specific Indicators
  • Proportion with work stress

Corresponding Mandatory Objectives

  • None
Corresponding National Indicators
  • None
Data Sources

Numerator & Denominator: Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS)
Original source:
Statistics Canada
Distributed by:
1. Knowledge Management and Reporting Branch, Ontario MOHLTC
2. Statistics Canada
Suggested citation (see Data Citation Notes):
1. Canadian Community Health Survey [year], Statistics Canada, Share File, Knowledge Management and Reporting Branch, Ontario MOHLTC
2. Canadian Community Health Survey [year], Statistics Canada, Public Use Microdata File, Statistics Canada

Alternative Data Source(s)

Survey Questions

Canadian Community Health Survey 2003 Questions (Cycle 2.1):
Question GEN_Q09: “The next question is about your main job or business in the past 12 months. Would you say that most days at work were: 1) Not at all stressful, 2) Not very stressful, 3) A bit stressful, 4) Quite a bit stressful, 5) Extremely stressful
Variable name: GENC_09

Canadian Community Health Survey 2000/01 Questions (Cycle 1.1):
Question GH_Q09: “The next question is about your main job or business in the past 12 months. Would you say that most days at work were: 1) Not at all stressful, 2) Not very stressful, 3) A bit stressful, 4) Quite a bit stressful, 5) Extremely stressful
Variable name: GENA_09

Analysis Check List
  • Although respondents aged 15-74 were included if they worked at a job or business in the past 12 months, limiting analysis to 20-64 year olds more accurately reflects the working population.
  • Before releasing and/or publishing CCHS data, users should ensure that the number of sampled respondents who contributed to the estimate is at least 10 when bootstrapping or 30 when using C.V. tables, regardless of the estimate’s coefficient of variation. For estimates based on sufficient sample size, determine the coefficient of variation of the rounded weighted estimate and follow the guidelines below:
    • Acceptable (0.0 - 16.5) Estimates can be considered for general unrestricted release. Requires no special notation.
    • Marginal (16.6 - 33.3) Estimates can be considered for general unrestricted release but should be accompanied by a warning cautioning of high sampling variability.
    • Unacceptable (greater than 33.3) Statistics Canada recommends not releasing estimates of unacceptable quality. However, if the user chooses to do so then estimates should be flagged and the following warning should accompany the estimates: “The user is advised that . . . (specify the data) . . . do not meet Statistics Canada’s quality standards for this statistical program. Conclusions based on these data will be unreliable and most likely invalid”. These data and any consequent findings should not be published. If the user chooses to publish these data or findings, then this disclaimer must be published with the data.
  • Prior to data analysis, ensure data are weighted by the appropriate variable.
  • The number of “don’t know” (coded as 7), “refusal” (coded as 8) and “not stated” (coded as 9) respondents are likely small and can be excluded. Users should check numbers before excluding these non-respondents.

Method of Calculation

Weighted number of those working in past year and aged 20-64 who
reported that most days at work were “quite a bit stressful” or “extremely stressful” 
    * 100
Weighted total population aged 20-64 who worked at a job or business in the past 12 months

Basic Categories

  • Age groups for age-specific rates: 20-44, 45-64.
  • Sex: male, female.
  • Geographic areas for CCHS - all 37 Public Health Units in Ontario.

Indicator Comments

  • Work stress can lead to poor health and injuries. Work stress is only a part of an individual’s total stress - other factors also contribute to stress.1 However, work stress is one of the most common forms of stress experienced by Canadians.
  • Having a high strain job, job insecurity, physical demands and the amount of support from supervisors and co-workers play a role in work stress.1,2
  • Depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease may be related to work organization, job control and worker support.1-3
  • Job strain (the measure of the balance between the psychological demands of a job and the amount of control or decision-making power it affords) has been proposed as a key component of work stress.1
  • Mood and sleep disturbances, upset stomach and headache, and disturbed relationships with family and friends are examples of stress-related problems that are quick to develop and are commonly seen in these studies. Stress also plays an important role in several types of chronic health problems - especially cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders.2
  • Individuals in different occupations report different sources of work stress. Sources of work stress also vary among males and females.
  • The question on self-perceived work stress is in the General Health module of the CCHS and was directed to working respondents aged 15-75. The question was identical in Cycles 1.1, 2.1, and 3.1.
  • There is an optional Work Stress index in the CCHS. It was selected as follows:
    • Cycle 1.1 (2000/01): all Ontario health regions.
    • Cycle 2.1 (2003): Brant, Haldimand/Norfolk, Elgin/St. Thomas, Middlesex/London, Oxford, Bruce/Grey/Owen Sound, Halton, Huron, Perth, Kent/Chatham, Lambton, Windsor/ Essex.
    • Cycle 3.1 (2005): not selected by any Ontario health regions.
  • Because of difficulty analyzing and interpreting the Work Stress index, the general question on self-perceived work tends to be used more often.
  • An objective of the January 2003 draft of the Mandatory Health Programs and Services Guidelines has the following objective: to decrease the level of work stress experienced by adults (20 years and over).
  • CCHS, Cycle 1.2 - 23.7% of respondents in Ontario reported self rated work stress, days ‘quite a bit stressful’ (Males 22.6%, Females 24.9%) and 5.7% of respondents reported self-rated work stress days, ‘extremely stressful’ (Males 6.0%, Females 5.4%).

Cross-References to Other Sections
  • None


  1. Wilkins K, Beaudet M. Work stress and health. Health Reports 1998:10(3):47-62.
  2. Wang J. Perceived work stress and major depressive episodes in a population of employed Canadians over 18 years old. J Nerv Ment Dis 2004;192(2):160-163.
  3. Heslop P, Davey Smith G, Metacalfe C, Macleod J, Hart C. Change in job satisfaction, and its association with self-reported stress, cardiovascular risk factors and mortality. Soc Sci Med 2002;54:1589-1599.

Other References
  1. Health Canada. Best Advice on Stress Risk Management in the Workplace, 2000.
  2. Bosma H, Peter R, Seigrist J, Marmot M. Two Alternative Job Stress Models and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease. Am J Pub Health 1998;88(1):68-74.
  3. Greenberg E, Grunberg L. Work alienation and problem alcohol behavior. J Health Soc Behav 1995;36:83-102.
  4. The Canadian Mental Health Association. The 2001 Canadian Mental Health Survey. URL:
  5. Northern Health Information Partnership. Mental Health in Northern Ontario. Short Report #5, January 2005. URL:

Date of Last Revision:May 31, 2005.

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