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Depression and work impairment

By Heather Gilmour, Health Statistics Division, Statistics Canada, and Scott B. Patten, Departments of Community Health Sciences and Psychiatry, University of Calgary


Key concepts



This article estimates the prevalence of depression among employed Canadians aged 25 to 64, and examines its association with work impairment, as measured by reduced work activity, mental health/general disability days, and work absence.

Data sources

Data are from the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health and Well-being and the longitudinal household component of the National Population Health Survey (1994/1995 to 2002/2003).

Analytical techniques

Cross-tabulations were used to estimate and determine factors associated with the prevalence of depression among the employed population.  Multiple logistic regression was used to examine associations between depression and work impairment while controlling for other variables.  Longitudinal data for 1994/1995 to 2002/2003 were used to examine the temporal sequence of depression and work impairment.

Main results

In 2002, almost 4% of employed people aged 25 to 64 had had an episode of depression in the previous year.  Cross-sectional analysis indicates that these workers had high odds of reducing work activity because of  a long-term health condition, having at least one mental health disability day in the past two weeks, and being absent from work in the past week.  Longitudinally, depression was associated with reduced work activity and disability days two years later.


  • absenteeism
  • comorbidity
  • longitudinal studies
  • mental health
  • occupational health
  • presenteeism
  • psychological stress
  • social support


  • Heather Gilmour, Health Statistics Division
    Statistics Canada
    Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0T6
    Telephone: (613) 951-2114

  • Scott B. Patten, Departments of Community Health Sciences and Psychiatry
    University of Calgary
    3330 Hospital Drive NW
    Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1
    Telephone: (403) 220-8752


Worldwide, depression is the leading cause of years lived with disability.  It can affect many aspects of life, including work.  In fact, the impact of depression on job performance has been estimated to be greater than that of chronic conditions such as arthritis, hypertension, back problems and diabetes. [Full text]


The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) cycle 1.2:  Mental Health and Well-being began in May 2002 and was conducted over eight months.  The survey covered people aged 15 or older living in private dwellings in the 10 provinces.  Residents of institutions, Indian reserves, certain remote areas and the three territories, as well as members of the regular Armed Forces and civilian residents of military bases, were excluded.  The sample was selected using the area frame designed for the Canadian Labour Force Survey.  A multi-stage stratified cluster design was used to sample dwellings within this area frame.  One person was randomly selected from the sampled households.  More detailed descriptions of the design, sample and interview procedures can be found in other reports and on Statistics Canada’s website. [Full text]


The World Mental Health version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI), which was used in the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS): Mental Health and Well-being, has yet to be validated.  Therefore, the extent to which clinical assessments by health care professionals would agree with assessments based on CCHS data is not known. [Full text]

Key concepts

Box 1: Stress, coping and support

Self-perceived work stress at the main job or business in the past 12 months was measured by asking: “Would you say that most days at work were: not at all stressful? not very stressful? a bit stressful? quite a bit stressful? extremely stressful?”  Respondents who answered “quite a bit” or “extremely” stressful were classified as having high self-perceived work stress. [Full text]


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Date modified: 2007-01-12 Important Notices