This study adopted a 'workforce' perspective in a study of job strain in primary care (general practice) in the UK. It explored the level of stress amongst workers in general practice and between practices and examined the relationship between level of stress and work characteristics. Postal questionnaires were sent to a random sample of general practices (n = 81) in southern England. The study showed that 23% of all responders could be classified, according to the GHQ-12, as suffering from mental distress with practice managers having the highest level of stress and clerical and administrative staff the lowest. Work characteristics as measured by Karasek's Job Content Instrument were shown to be significant predictors of job stress as were marital status and health status. The implications of these findings are discussed, particularly focusing on the value of the job strain model for explaining job stress in general practice.