What is Wellbeing? Post-release day for the CIW 2012 report

Earlier this week, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing released its second national report on wellbeing in Canada. 

The report, well picked-up by the media, indicated that, prior to the recession, when our economy was doing well, Canadians saw modest improvements in their quality of life. However, when our economy faltered, our wellbeing fell disproportionately back. Typically the economy and our wellbeing, thought of as one and the same, are measured by GDP. But as we continue to emphasize in our new report, GDP tells us nothing about the quality of life our policies and actions are creating for ourselves and future generations.

Are we truly progressing forward? Imagine a Canada where, before decisions were made and policies were established, governments asked the question: Will this improve the wellbeing of Canadians?

One way we can begin to understand why our wellbeing is about more than just economy, and how to improve it, is by thinking about what constitutes “wellbeing.”

What is wellbeing?

While there are many definitions of wellbeing, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, has adopted the following as its working definition:

Wellbeing is the presence of the highest possible quality of life in its full breadth of expression, focused on but not necessarily exclusive to 

Word cloud definition of wellbeing- vital communities, robust health, democratic participation, access to leisure and culture, good living standards, a sustainable environment, balanced time use, and an educated populace.


These eight domains of wellbeing were developed through public consultation across the country, so that they reflect the needs and values of Canadians--

VALUES (things we uphold, and hope for ourselves and others) and,

NEEDS (things that allow us to continue living and productively participating in society)

Where does this leave us? Our new 2012 report uncovers troubling truths about the connection between our economy, our wellbeing, and our government policies.

Across our communities, property and violent crimes are at their lowest levels since 1994. This is a good contributor to our wellbeing. However, are policies out of line with this data? Currently Canadians are being asked to build more prisons. In our education system, university graduation rates have increased by more than half—this is also good for our wellbeing. However, high youth unemployment rates and soaring student debts are delaying our future generation’s success.

Other networks and organizations have joined the conversation. The Community Foundations of Canada say that CIW conclusions are mirrored in their own report on Canada’s Vital Signs (“Vital Youth”), released a few weeks ago. The Association of Community Health Centres asks that the government support our recommendation to increase access to Community Health Centres, and provide better services and better value for our healthcare.

Are our governments, at the national and local levels, responding to the needs and values of Canadians?

This week on the news, on the radio, on Twitter, on Facebook, and out in our communities, people from across the country are weighing in on this issue. And we have asked them to consider whether their wellbeing is better today than it has been in the past. We urge you to continue the conversation.

Take a look at our CIW 2012 report or explore the infographics on our website.

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