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The happy docs study: a Canadian Association of Internes and Residents well-being survey examining resident physician health and satisfaction within and outside of residency training in Canada

Jordan S Cohen1*, Yvette Leung2, Meriah Fahey3, Linda Hoyt4, Roona Sinha5, Lisa Cailler6, Kevin Ramchandar7, John Martin8 and Scott Patten9

Author Affiliations

1 University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, Foothills Medical Center, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

2 University of Calgary, Fellow in the Department of Gastroenterology, Calgary Alberta, Canada

3 University of Manitoba, Resident in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

4 Dalhousie University, Resident in the Department of Psychiatry, Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada

5 University of Alberta, Resident in the Department of Pediatrics, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

6 University of British Columbia, Resident in the Department of Radiation Oncology. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

7 McMaster University, Resident in the Department of Radiation Oncology. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

8 Memorial University, Resident in the Department of Pediatrics. St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

9 University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, Department of Community Health, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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BMC Research Notes 2008, 1:105  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-1-105

Published: 29 October 2008



Few Canadian studies have examined stress in residency and none have included a large sample of resident physicians. Previous studies have also not examined well-being resources nor found significant concerns with perceived stress levels in residency. The goal of "The Happy Docs Study" was to increase knowledge of current stressors affecting the health of residents and to gather information regarding the well-being resources available to them.


A questionnaire was distributed to all residents attending all medical schools in Canada outside of Quebec through the Canadian Association of Internes and Residents (CAIR) during the 2004–2005 academic years.

In total 1999 resident physicians responded to the survey (35%, N = 5784 residents). One third of residents reported their life as "quite a bit" to "extremely" stressful (33%, N = 656). Time pressure was the most significant factor associated with stress (49%, N = 978). Intimidation and harassment was experienced by more than half of all residents (52%, N = 1050) with training status (30%, N = 599) and gender (18%, N = 364) being the main perceived sources. Eighteen percent of residents (N = 356) reported their mental health as either "fair" or "poor". The top two resources that residents wished to have available were career counseling (39%, N = 777) and financial counseling (37%, N = 741).


Although many Canadian resident physicians have a positive outlook on their well-being, residents experience significant stressors during their training and a significant portion are at risk for emotional and mental health problems. This study can serve as a basis for future research, advocacy and resource application for overall improvements to well-being during residency.