What is the Difference Between Occupation and Activity?

To most people, the word 'occupation' refers to the jobs they do to earn a living. However, occupational therapists view  occupations as all of the daily activities in our lives that make us who we are. Our occupations are formed by our cultural backgrounds and include all the tasks we perform to fulfill our time and give life meaning.


Throughout our lives, we perform an endless number of activities - the culturally accepted things that we, and most of the people around us, do on a daily basis. While an activity is a general class of human actions, such as playing or cooking, an occupation is shaped by personal interests, desires and values. An occupation always reflects the unique characteristics of the individual, has some degree of personal meaning and can only be interpreted by the person experiencing it.


Most people participate in the same basic activities, but the things that we want to do - our occupations - define who we are, differentiate us from one another and make us unique. We often use the phrase "Quality of Life" when referring to meaningful activities, showing how deeply occupation is connected to a person's health and well-being.