Long-term trends in the work hours of physicians in Canada.

Publication date: Mar 24, 2024

Physician work hours directly influence patient access to health care services and play a vital role in physician human resource planning. We sought to evaluate long-term trends in hours worked by physicians in Canada, overall and by subgroup. We used Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey to identify physicians via occupation and industry coding information. We estimated descriptive statistics and performed graphical analysis of the average weekly hours worked by physicians over the 1987-2021 period. Overall, weekly physician work hours remained stable from 1987 until 1997, after which they declined. Average weekly hours decreased by 6. 9 hours (p < 0. 001), from 52. 8 in 1987-1991 to 45. 9 in 2017-2021. Among male physicians, work hours declined notably after 1997, while those of female physicians remained relatively stable at around 45 per week. Hours worked by married physicians declined significantly, amounting to 7. 4 fewer hours per week (p = 0. 001). In contrast, unmarried physicians displayed a statistically insignificant decline of 2. 2 hours (p = 0. 3). The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a sharp but brief disruption in weekly hours; by the end of 2020, physicians' work hours had returned to prepandemic levels. These findings may indicate a long-term shift in work preferences among Canadian physicians; male physicians may be seeking a better work-life balance, which, in turn, has narrowed the gap in hours worked by sex, with potential implications for pay equity. Policymakers and planners should carefully consider changes in hours worked, rather than just the total number of physicians, to ensure an accurate evaluation of the physician workforce.

Concepts Keywords
Canadian Average
Insignificant Canada
Physicians Declined
Weekly Hours


Type Source Name
disease VO Canada
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
drug DRUGBANK Tropicamide
drug DRUGBANK Isoxaflutole
disease VO Gap
disease VO Equity

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