Community belonging

Importance of indicator
Background
Highlights and graphs
References
Other studies

To measure sense of community belonging, respondents to the Canadian Community Health Survey were asked, "How would you describe your sense of belonging to your local community? Would you say it is:  very strong? somewhat strong? somewhat weak? very weak?".

Importance of indicator

Research has established links between social networks and health outcomes1. Social isolation tends to be detrimental to health, while social engagement and attachment are associated with positive health outcomes. Sense of community belonging embodies the social attachment of individuals and reflects social engagement and participation within communities. This type of indicator supports an "upstream" approach to preventing illness and promoting health.

Background

Research shows that sense of community belonging is highly correlated with physical and mental health, even when age, socio-economic status and other factors are taken into account2,3.  However, because these studies are cross-sectional, causality cannot be inferred—while weak community ties may lead to ill health, illness may also negatively affect sense of community belonging.

Well over half of Canadians consistently report a somewhat strong or very strong sense of community belonging3.

The percentage of Canadians feeling this way rose during the years of the current decade and has since stabilized at about two-thirds3.

Youth aged 12 to 17 were most likely to report a strong sense of community belonging; young adults aged 18 to 29 were less likely to do so3.

At older ages, the likelihood of reporting a strong sense of community belonging gradually increased2,3. It has been suggested that this increase is because older people may have more time to participate in community life.

In 2003, seniors with a strong sense of community belonging had higher odds of having good health, even when socio-demographic factors, behavioural risk factors, chronic conditions, and stress were taken into account4.

The relatively low percentages of young adults reporting a strong sense of community have been attributed to the demands of child-rearing, which may interfere with parents' community involvement2. However, contrary to this explanation, in 2005, people with children younger than 12 in the household were more likely than those without children in this age range to report a strong sense of community belonging3.

A strong or somewhat strong sense of community belonging is not distributed evenly among the population.  People living in rural environments and those with higher household incomes were more likely to report a somewhat/very strong sense of community belonging2,3.

Between 2000/2001 and 2005, the percentage of Canadians with a strong sense of community belonging rose in most provinces, especially New Brunswick, where the figure increased from 62% to 73%3.

Over the same period, percentages dropped in Nunavut (from 86% to 83%) and Yukon Territory (from 79% to 71%).  However, estimates for these territories were among the highest in Canada to begin with3.

Highlights and graphs

Time trend

Description

Description

Graph 1.1 - Age-standardized percentage reporting a strong or very strong sense of community belonging, by sex, household population aged 12 or older, Canada 2000/2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008

  • The age-standardized percentage of Canadians reporting a very strong or somewhat strong sense of community belonging increased from 57.3% in 2000/2001 to 63.0% in 2003 for males, and from 57.6% to 67.3% for females. After 2003 the percentage stabilized for both males and females.
  • In 2007, females were more likely than males to report a somewhat or very strong sense of community belonging; in the other years, there was no difference.

Note: Age–standardized, direct method to 1991 Canada population.

Age group and sex

Description

Description

Graph 1.2 - Percentage reporting a strong or very strong sense of community belonging, by age group and sex, household population aged 12 years or older, Canada 2008

  • Almost two-thirds of Canadian males (65.0%, 8.7 million people) and females (64.9%, 9.0 million people) reported a strong or very strong sense of community belonging in 2008.
  • In most age groups, males were just as likely as females to report a strong sense of community belonging.  The exception was ages 45 to 54:  males of these ages were slightly more likely than the females to report a strong sense of community belonging.
  • Starting at age 55, the likelihood of reporting a strong sense of community belonging exceeded the figure for Canadians overall.  The same was true at ages 12 to 17.
  • By contrast, both males and females aged 18 to 34 were less likely than Canadians overall to report a strong sense of community belonging.

Province

Description

Description

Graph 1.3 - Age-standardized percentage reporting a strong or very strong sense of community belonging, household population aged 12 or older, Canada, provinces and territories, 2008

  • In 2008, residents of the Territories and Atlantic Provinces were more likely than Canadians overall to report a strong sense of community belonging.
  • In Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, the likelihood of feeling a strong sense of community belonging was slightly higher than that for Canada as a whole.
  • Quebec and Alberta were the only two provinces or territories that had a lower sense of community belonging than Canadians overall. 

Note: Age–standardized, direct method to 1991 Canada population.

References

1. Berkman LF, Glass T, Brissette I, Seeman TE. From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium. Social Science and Medicine 51(2000):843-857.

2. Ross N. Community belonging and health. Health Reports (Statistics Canada, Catalogue 82-003) 2002;13(3):33-39. 

3. Shields M. Community belonging and self-perceived health. Health Reports (Statistics Canada, Catalogue 82-003) 2008;19(2):51-60. 

4. Shields M, Martel L. Healthy living among seniors. Health Reports (Statistics Canada, Catalogue 82-003) 2006; 16(Suppl.): 7-20. 

Other studies

Schellenberg G. Perceptions of Canadians: A sense of belonging, confidence and trust.  Canadian Social Trends (Statistics Canada, Catalogue 11-008) Winter 2004; (75): 16-21.

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