Activity involvement and wellbeing



Another fall is upon us, and Canadians have not only settled back into the school routine but also into another year of involvement in community-based groups and activities. Whether it’s sports, dance, music, art, or other hobbies entirely, after a leisurely summer schedule it might be daunting to fit all these interests back into your life again. But did you know that participation in organized groups such as these has a positive impact on your overall wellbeing?

Here at the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, we created the Community Wellbeing Survey to measure different aspects of wellbeing in communities across Canada including Guelph, Waterloo, Kingston, Victoria, and Wood Buffalo. One of many things we were interested in learning from these surveys is how many people participate in organized community activities.

 Type of activity by city of residence

These are only a few of the organized activities Canadians take part in, but the chart gives an idea of just how many of us are engaging in these community opportunities. As you can see, only about 20-35% of Canadians surveyed are taking part in cultural, educational, and/or hobby groups.  Slightly more popular are the sports groups, which 30-45% of community residents engage in. This means that many Canadians do not participate in any arts and culture, hobby, education, or sport groups at all.

Why does this matter? Good question! The Community Wellbeing Survey also collects information on many indicators of overall wellbeing. I took a peek at the results of the five communities together, to see how participation in these organized activities relates to a few indicators of overall wellbeing, and the results are compelling. People who participate in organized activities report higher self-rated physical and mental health, and an increased sense of belonging to their communities, compared to those who reported no participation. That’s a big deal! See for yourself.

Participants were asked to rate their sense of belonging from ‘very weak’ (1) to ‘very strong’ (7), and their physical and mental health from ‘poor’ (1) to ‘excellent’ (5). For each overall wellbeing indicator, people who reported some participation in organized activities had a higher score than those who reported no participation. This is summarized in the graphs below.

Sense of belonging to community by participation in at least one organized activity (%)

"Very good" or "excellent" self-rated physical and mental health by participation in at least one organized activity (%)

So whether it is your schedule, your child’s schedule, your grandchild, niece, nephew or friend’s schedule that is clogging up your day timer and making your head spin, remember this post. Those dance classes, choir rehearsals, quilting groups, hockey practices, and language lessons are setting you and your loved ones up to feel better physically and mentally, and to have a stronger sense of belonging to your community. And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing.

What community activities do you engage in to boost your wellbeing? And, what could your community do to increase participation? Share your story with us @ciwnetwork or comment on our Facebook page.

Stay well, folks.

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