General Social Survey - Caregiving and Care Receiving (GSS)

Detailed information for 2011 (Cycle 26, Pilot Survey)




Every 5 years

Record number:


The two primary objectives of the General Social Survey (GSS) are: to gather data on social trends in order to monitor changes in the living conditions and well being of Canadians over time; and to provide information on specific social policy issues of current or emerging interest.

The purpose of this survey is to provide a snapshot of the lives of caregivers and care receivers in today's Canada.

Data release - No data will be released for the pilot portion of GSS Cycle 26.


This survey collects data on the situation of Canadians who receive help or care because of a long-term health condition, a disability or problems related to aging, and of those who provide help or care to family members or friends with those conditions. Data from this survey will help us to better understand the needs and challenges faced by these Canadians, and allow policy makers to design programs that meet their needs.

Questions in the survey cover the types and amount of care family caregivers provide, the kinds and amounts of care Canadians receive, and the unmet needs of those who need care but are not receiving it. An expanded set of questions covers the impact of caregiving on various aspects of the lives of caregivers. All respondents are asked questions about their overall health, employment, housing and other socio-demographic characteristics such as birth place, religion and language.

Results from this survey will be used by analysts and researchers to study current situations and trends, and by many government departments to develop policies and programs that can have an impact on individuals who receive care, their families, those who provide care, and those who may need or provide care in the future.

Statistical activity

This record is part of the General Social Survey (GSS) program. The GSS, originating in 1985, conducts telephone surveys. Each survey contains a core topic, focus or exploratory questions and a standard set of socio-demographic questions used for classification. More recent cycles have also included some qualitative questions, which explore opinions and perceptions.

Until 1998, the target sample of respondents was approximately 10,000 persons. This was increased in 1999 to 25,000. With a sample of respondents of 25,000, results are available at both the national and provincial levels and possibly for some special population groups such as disabled persons and seniors.


  • Society and community

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population for the GSS on Caregiving and Care Receiving is the Canadian population aged 15 and over, living in the 10 provinces, and not residing in institutions.

In the GSS, all respondents are contacted by telephone. Thus persons in households without telephones cannot be interviewed. However, persons living in such households represent less than 2% of the target population.

Instrument design

The questionnaire was designed based on research and extensive consultations with data users. Qualitative testing, conducted by Statistics Canada's Questionnaire Design Resource Center (QDRC), was carried out, where one-on-one in-depth interviews with respondents from across Canada highlighted questions that worked well and others that needed clarification or redesign. QDRC staff compiled a detailed report of the results along with their recommendations. All comments and feedback from qualitative testing were carefully considered and incorporated into the survey when possible.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

The target population for GSS Cycle 26 Pilot Survey is all non-institutionalized persons 15 years of age or older, living in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

The GSS Cycle 26 Pilot sample was selected in July, 2011 through a technique called "Random Digit Dialling" (RDD) which randomly generates a list of phone numbers that is used to contact households. All the sampled telephone numbers are numbers that are listed as 'in service for residential use' based on Statistics Canada's administrative sources. A survey respondent is randomly selected once contact is made with the household.

For Cycle 26, "rejective sampling" is used to reach more caregivers and care receivers. This technique has been used in other surveys in order to include more respondents from hard-to-reach or small populations. After a respondent is classified as a caregiver, care receiver, both or neither, sub-sampling will be carried out for selected respondents who are neither caregivers nor care receivers. All respondents who are caregivers or care receivers will be interviewed. Those who are NOT caregivers or care receivers will be randomly divided into two groups. One group will continue with the interview, while for the other group, the survey will end at this point.

The sample size for the pilot survey is 5,000 phone numbers with 2,500 selected from Quebec, 1,250 from Alberta and 1,250 from British Columbia.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2011-09-01 to 2011-09-16 (Pilot survey)

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Data collection for the pilot survey is conducted by Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) methods through the Edmonton and Sherbrooke regional offices. Each regional office will be assigned 2,500 phone numbers from which to collect the survey information. Initial contact is made through an introductory mail out letter. Proxy interviews are permitted in cases where the selected respondent does not speak either of the official languages or where the respondent is not able to take part in the survey because of health reasons.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

In order to prevent any data disclosure, confidentiality analysis is done using the Statistics Canada Generalized Disclosure Control System (G-Confid). G-Confid is used for primary suppression (direct disclosure) as well as for secondary suppression (residual disclosure). Direct disclosure occurs when the value in a tabulation cell is composed of or dominated by few enterprises while residual disclosure occurs when confidential information can be derived indirectly by piecing together information from different sources or data series.


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