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Perceived work stress, imbalance between work and family/personal lives, and mental disorders

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Occupational mental health research has been focusing on the relationship between work stress and depression. However, the impacts of work stress on anxiety disorders and of imbalance between work and family life on workers’ mental health have not been well studied. This analysis investigated the association between levels of perceived work stress and of imbalance between work and family/personal lives and current mood/anxiety disorders.


This was a cross-sectional study using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey—Mental Health and Well-being (CCHS-1.2) (n=36,984). Mood and anxiety disorders were measured using the World Mental Health—Composite International Diagnostic Interview.


The 1-month prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders among those with a work stress score at the 75th percentile value and above was 3.6% and 4.0%. Among those who reported that their work and family/personal lives “never” balanced in the past month, the 1-month prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders was 21.2% and 17.9%. In multivariate analyses, work stress and imbalance between work and family/personal lives were independently associated with mood and anxiety disorders. There was no evidence that perceived work stress interacted with imbalance between work and family/personal lives to increase the likelihood of having mental disorders. Gender was associated with anxiety disorders, but not with major depressive disorder and mood disorders.


Work stress and imbalance between work and family/personal lives may be part of the etiology of mood and anxiety disorders in the working population. Community based longitudinal studies are needed to delineate the causal relationships among work stress, imbalance between work and family/personal lives and mental disorders.

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This study was partly supported by a research grant from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation. JianLi Wang is supported by the New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The research and data analysis are done using the data from Statistics Canada. However, the opinions and views expressed do not represent those of Statistics Canada.

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Correspondence to Jian Li Wang.

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Wang, J. Perceived work stress, imbalance between work and family/personal lives, and mental disorders. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 41, 541–548 (2006).

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