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7 Self-Perceived Life 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 population aged 15 and over who self-reported life stress in the past 12 months.

Specific Indicators
  • Proportion with self-perceived life stress

Corresponding Mandatory Objectives

  • None
Corresponding National Indicators
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

Survey Questions

Canadian Community Health Survey 2003 Questions (Cycle 2.1):
Question GEN_Q07: Thinking about the amount of stress in your life, would you say that most days are: 1) not at all stressful, 2) not very stressful, 3) a bit stressful, 4) quite a bit stressful, 5) extremely stressful
Variable name: GENC_07

Canadian Community Health Survey 2000/01 Questions (Cycle 1.1):
Question GH_Q07: Thinking about the amount of stress in your life, would you say that most days are: 1) not at all stressful, 2) not very stressful, 3) a bit stressful, 4) quite a bit stressful, 5) extremely stressful
Variable name: GENA_07

Analysis Check List
  • 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 respondents aged 15+ who reported that
most days in their life were “quite a bit stressful” or “extremely stressful” 
    * 100
Weighted total population aged 15+

Basic Categories

  • Age groups for age-specific rates: 15-24, 25-44, 45-64, 65+
  • ex: male, female.
  • Geographic areas for CCHS - all 37 Public Health Units in Ontario.

Indicator Comments

  • Sources of stress (stressors) can be acute or chronic. Acute stressors such as major life events are discrete events/changes that require a major adjustment in a short period of time. They are usually measured over a shorter period of time. Chronic stressors often do not have an obvious beginning, develop subtly and persist over time. They are one of the most common forms of stress.1
  • The emotions produced by stress can modify immune response and influence the onset and progression of physical illness. Stress may also trigger negative changes in health behaviours as individuals try to cope.1
  • Common sources of stress are financial worries, work/employment/unemployment, parenting, health problems, aging and caregiving/elder care.
  • Stress may not necessarily cause illness. A person’s reaction to a stressor will influence its effect on health. Whether or not a stressor impacts a person’s health depends on a complex set of factors that includes genetics, how the stress is perceived and available resources. External resources (money and education), personal resources (sense of control over one’s life) and emotional support can mediate the impact of stress or can prevent individuals from even experiencing stress in the first place.1
  • Males and females report different levels and sources of stress, making it important to conduct separate analyses for each gender1,2
  • Stress can also play a role in the onset and course of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, stress may prompt changes in health behaviour as individuals try to cope. Stress indicator variables are - occupation, family and marital status, education, socioeconomic status.2
  • The question on self-perceived life stress is in the General Health module of the CCHS and was directed to respondents aged 18 and over. The question was identical in Cycles 1.1, 2.1, and 3.1.
  • An objective of the January 2003 draft of the Mandatory Health Programs and Services Guidelines has the following objective: “to decrease the level of chronic stress experienced by adults (20 years and over)”. It is not clear whether self-perceived life stress measures chronic or acute life stress or both.
  • CCHS Cycle 1.1 reports that 25.7% of the population have “life stress, quite a lot” (95% CI 25.1%, 26.4%); Males 24.4% (95% CI 23.5%, 25.4%); Females 27.0% (95% CI 26.1%, 27.9%).

Cross-References to Other Sections
  • None


  1. Shields M. Stress, health and the benefit of social support. Health Reports 2004 January 15(1): 9-38.
  2. Elliot SJ, Dean A. An ecologic analysis of psychosocial stress and heart disease in British Columbia. CJPH 1998 89(2):137-140.

Date of Last Revision:>May 30, 2005

Other References
  1. Northern Health Information Partnership. Mental Health in Northern Ontario. Short Report #5, January 2005. URL:
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