Canadian Index of Wellbeing
University of Waterloo
Faculty of Health Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA
The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) tracks changes in eight quality of life categories or domains including: community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards, and time use.
Measuring what Canadians really care about
One of the things that sets the CIW apart is the process used to create the conceptual framework of eight domains. It started with listening to Canadians talk about what is important to the quality of their lives. Researchers then developed the eight domain framework and a set of criteria for indicator selection. Only then, did researchers go out and look for indicators. For three of the dimensions covering two domains (Leisure and Culture, Living Standards), no indicators met the criteria - creating data gaps. One of the CIW's goals is to promote data collection that better reflects the real lives of Canadians, and so, we have noted the gaps below.
Click on the domains to expand details and their eight affiliated indicators
This domain looks at our quality of life with regard to the communities we live in. It tells us what is happening in our neighbourhoods, how safe we feel, and whether or not we are engaged in community activities or becoming socially isolated.
The conceptual model for the Community Vitality domain is comprised of four sub-dimensions, organized into two main dimensions. The first dimension includes measures of Social Relationships. The three sub-dimensions of this category are social engagement, social support and community safety. The second dimension measures Social Norms and Values, with a single sub-dimension of attitudes towards others and community.
|Social Relationships||Social engagement||
Percentage of population that reports somewhat or very strong sense of belonging to community
Percentage of population volunteering without pay for a charitable or non-profit organisation (i.e., volunteer rate)
Percentage of population that reports having no close friends
Percentage of population that made a donation in the past year to a charitable or non-profit organisation
Percentage of population that feels safe from crime walking alone in their area after dark
|Social Norms and Values||Attitudes towards others and community||
Percentage of population experiencing discrimination in past 5 years based on ethno-cultural characteristics
Percentage of population that believes most or many people can be trusted
Democratic Engagement means taking part in the democratic process through political institutions, organizations, and activities. A society that enjoys a high level of democratic engagement is one where citizens freely participate in political activities, express their political views, and share political knowledge; where governments build relationships, trust, and encourage citizen participation; and, where democratic values are promoted by citizens, civic organizations, and all levels of government. A healthy democracy means more than voting in elections; it requires ongoing democratic engagement both during and between elections.
The framework of the Democratic Engagement domain is based upon the work of Samara Canada’s Democracy 360 report. There are three interrelated dimensions in the framework: (1) Participation, (2) Communication and, (3) Leadership.
Education is a core personal resource and a reflection of our ability to function and adapt in society. It is an important predictor of health, living standards, democratic participation, and education for future generations. The Education domain focuses on school-based learning and education rather than informal learning. Since societies that thrive encourage a thirst for knowledge at every age and stage, the framework of the Education domain includes both traditional indicators of educational achievement along with some less conventional indicators of education across the life span.
The Education domain framework identifies four key dimensions for understanding the connections between education and wellbeing: (1) Accessibility, (2) Life-long participation, (3) Academic achievement, and (4) Investing in education.
Average annual Canadian undergraduate tuition fees ($2022)
Percentage of Bachelor's degree students with debt after graduation
Percentage of children aged 0 to 5 years for whom there is a regulated centre-based child care space
Percentage of adults 25 years of age and older participating in education-related activities
Percentage of 25 to 29 year olds in labour force completing high school
Percentage of 25 to 64 year olds in population with a university degree
|Investing in education||
Average expenditure per public school student ($2020)
The Environment domain identifies trends in the availability and use of natural resources in Canada’s environment. From the resources that fuel our economy to the medicines that heal us, and the happiness of outdoor enthusiasts to the lessons that guide many religious or spiritual beliefs, the wellbeing of humans depends on the state of the environment. This domain is not an analysis of the sustainability of Canada‘s environment; instead, it explores natural assets available to Canadians, the flow of these resources over time, and some of the impacts of human activity on the environment.
The Environment domain covers different aspects of the environment that matter to Canadians’ wellbeing including: clean air, clean water, available energy, the amount of wilderness, diversity of species, and the value Canadians place on stewardship of our natural resources. These environmental aspects are explored through a “stock and flow” framework. This can be best understood by thinking about your bank account – the amount of money you have in the account is the stock, and any money added or removed is the flow. For the environment, this means that current amounts of a resource (stock) are measured alongside the quantity added or removed (flow).
Air pollution in fine particulate matter emissions (megatonnes).
Absolute greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) (megatonnes of CO2 per year)
Primary energy production (terajoules)
Drinking water from water plants per capita served (cubic metres).
Percentage of people who volunteered in conservation or protection of environment/wildlife activities
Forest regeneration: Area planted (hectares)
This domain looks at the health of the Canadian population to assess whether different aspects of our health are improving or deteriorating.
The Healthy Populations domain is mainly concerned with measuring health status, lifestyle and behaviour, and health care system factors. The dimensions of health status (personal wellbeing, health conditions, life expectancy/mortality, and mental health) measure different aspects of health outcomes. The other dimensions (lifestyle and behaviour, public health, and health care) measure factors that affect our health and are often directly affected by public policy and health initiatives. These dimensions measure external factors that affect the health status of people and communities.
Percentage of population self-rating their overall health as very good or excellent
Percentage of population self-rating their mental health as very good or excellent
Percentage of population who perceive most days to be quite a bit or extremely stressful
|Lifestyle and behaviour||Percentage of population 12 years and older reporting occasional or daily smoking|
Percentage of population that received influenza immunization in past year
Leisure and Culture
The leisure and culture domain explores Canadians’ participation and engagement with the arts, culture, and recreation. Participation in these activities can be highly beneficial to wellbeing by contributing to better physical and mental health, and creating opportunities for socializing, relaxation, and learning new things.
The leisure and culture domain has two main dimensions. The first is Participation in leisure, recreation, arts, and cultural activities. The second dimension includes the provision of leisure and culture Opportunities, such as access to recreation facilities, open spaces and parks, and other arts, culture, and recreation sites. Taken together, these components are used to define, measure, and understand leisure and culture and to explore relationships to wellbeing.
On our "wish list" for data collection, are two additional dimensions: Perceptions, or feelings about leisure activities, including why people participate, what needs are being met through participation, and how leisure and culture participation benefits them and Experience of leisure, or the meaning it holds for people in relation to quality of life.
The Living Standards domain measures the level and distribution of Canadians’ income and wealth by monitoring poverty rates, income fluctuations, labour market security and job quality. It also considers basic necessities such as food security and affordable housing.
Eight headline indicators are grouped into four dimensions including: (1) Income and wealth; (2) Housing security; (3) Food security; and (4) Economic security.
|Income and wealth||
After-tax median income of economic families and persons not in an economic family ($2020 constant dollars)
|Housing security||Percentage of households paying 30% or more of average monthly household income on housing|
|Food security||Percentage of population that is moderately or severely food insecure|
Incidence of long-term unemployment (52 weeks or more)
Job tenure: Average number of consecutive months person has worked for current employer
Percentage of population living in poverty (based on Low Income Measure After Tax LIM-AT)
Indicators in the Time Use domain measure how Canadians spend their time, how we experience time, what factors control our time use, and how time use affects our wellbeing.
The time use domain framework is based on the Social Theory of Time, and is comprised of four dimensions: time, timing, tempo, and temporality. The time dimension includes indicators that capture the amount of time spent on specific activities. Indicators in the timing dimension look at when activities occur during the day. This is related to how much “control” Canadians have over their time. Tempo focuses on how time is experienced in terms of pace (fast, slow, intense, relaxed, etc.). Finally, temporality refers to the natural rhythms associated with daily, weekly, or annual routines that are largely dependent on biological or seasonal changes. Taken together, these four dimensions allow us to gain a broader perspective of the experience, meaning, and complexity of time.
Percentage of labour force participants 25 years of age and older working more than 50 hours per week
Percentage of labour force working less than 30 hours per week, not by choice
Average daily amount of time spent with friends (minutes per day)
Percentage of population 15 years and older with long commutes to work (over 45 minutes)
Percentage of labour force with regular, weekday work hours
Percentage of individuals in population working for pay with flexible work hours
|Tempo||Percentage of population 15 years and older working full-time reporting high levels of time pressure|
Percentage of Canadians who report 7 to 9 hours of good quality essential sleep