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Composite index

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) is a composite index with a single number that moves up or down like the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) or Dow Jones Industrial, giving a quick snapshot of whether the overall quality of life of Canadians is getting better or worse.

The CIW produces both a national and provincial (Ontario) composite index. There are plans to develop provincial indices for all provinces in the future.

To illustrate the value of a composite index, here is a graph of the second release of the composite index in October 2012. It showed that Canadians’ quality of life has not improved at anywhere near the pace of economic growth as measured by GDP. In fact, since 1994, the starting point for the CIW, Canada’s wellbeing has seen an overall improvement of 5.7 per cent – paling in comparison to the 28.9 per cent growth in the country’s GDP over that same time frame.

Graph representing percentage change in GDP and CIW indices between 1994 and 2010

Because most of our health statistics were drawn from the various cycles of the National Population Health Survey, which began in 1994, 1994 was selected as our base year. Selection of 2010 as our final year of review was determined by the latest full set of data across all eight domains. To create comparable index values from our raw data values, the baseline values of each of the 64 headline indicators has been set at 100. Positive percentage changes for each one indicate some improvement in wellbeing while negative percentage changes indicate some deterioration.

There are many reasons for regarding one or another indicator as more important in some way or other, but what is missing is a good reason for assigning any particular indicator a particular numerical value greater or less than that of some or all other indicators. The absence of such a reason justifies the equal treatment of all indicators at the current time. With the greater understanding of the relationships among all indicators that is bound to come as development of the CIW proceeds, sufficient reasons for diverse weights may appear.

A more detailed description of the methodology can be found in the full technical composite paper (PDF).

Explore our infographics

How are Canadians really doing? Infographic