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Sense of belonging plays key role in Calgarians’ quality of life: Report

Most people believe Calgary is a good place to live, but a feeling of belonging plays a role in one’s quality of life views, according to a new report from the Calgary Foundation.

And while the Quality of Life report shows some challenges, there’s optimism among Calgarians, particularly youth.

The 24-page report is based on the responses from 1,000 Calgarians, randomly selected based on demographics. A higher percentage of responses came from the city’s northwest and southwest, but the age demographics were spread out from 18 to 65+.

Overall, 64 per cent of surveyed Calgarians are happy with their quality of life. It’s the same overall as 2021. The number jumps up to 74 per cent for the 18 to 24 age bracket but drops to 51 per cent for those aged 45 to 54.

There’s been a lot on people’s minds, according to Taylor Barrie, VP Communication for Calgary Foundation. Citizens are emerging into a post pandemic world and all the change that it’s brought with it.

“We are feeling the weight of the last couple of years. We’re feeling the impact of cost of living, but Calgary is still a very great place to live and there’s still a real sense of optimism about our future,” Barrie said.

There are some headwinds, including inability to afford healthy food (21 per cent, rising to 31 per cent among 45-54 group). Four in 10 surveyed had work hours reduced or had temporary or permanent job loss. That jumps to 55 per cent in the 18 to 24 group.

Eight in 10 respondents are concerned about the level of poverty in Calgary

Sense of belonging

One area tracked by the Calgary Foundation report was one’s sense of belonging and how it correlates with their upbeat outlook.

There’s a clear connection between a strong sense of belonging and positive responses to the survey.  For example, 86 per cent of survey respondents who felt a good sense of belonging felt they could meet their financial needs. That’s compared to 66 per cent who felt they could meet their financial needs but had a weak sense of belonging.

Volunteering and donations were dramatically higher among those who felt a strong sense of belonging in Calgary.

Barrie said that the Calgary Foundation is in the business of belonging. Their vision is to help build a city where everyone feels they belong. It only made sense to include this as a part of their reporting, she said.

“The world is increasingly divided and disparate,” Barrie said.

“I think we know that belonging really, fundamentally matters to how you live your life.”

She said seeing the impact of belonging isn’t surprising as much as it is validating. When people are challenged and they don’t feel like they have a community to lift them up, it can have a trickle-down impact into other areas.

The feeling of public safety could also play a role in one’s desire to get out into the community and nurture that sense of belonging. It may influence one’s likelihood to participate in their neighbourhood or even with next-door neighbours, Barrie said.

More than half of respondents said they were concerned about safety in their neighbourhood – up from 45 per cent in 2021. Concern rises substantially as ages rise.

“I think we’re definitely seeing a link between feelings of safety and inclusion and community,” she said.

Optimism among Calgarians

The survey did show a few rays of hope among Calgarians, including on the economic front.

Forty-eight per cent of survey respondents expressed optimism in 2022, up from 41 per cent in 2021 and only 14 per cent in 2020.  Nine in 10 between the ages of 25 and 44 believe Calgary is a good place for families to live.

One of the numbers that stuck out to Barrie was the number of young people that don’t plan on leaving Calgary in 2022.  That number was four in 10 this year and six in 10 in 2021.

Overall, 74 per cent of survey respondents don’t foresee moving out of Calgary in the near future.

“We were heartened to see to hear that more young people are wanting to stay in Calgary,” she said.  

“That wasn’t the case a couple of years ago.”

She also said the Calgary Foundation was happy to see that people tend to believe racism in the city is declining. Take it with a grain of salt, however, because there are still challenges, she said.

“If you’re racialized Calgarian you’re still not feeling dramatically different about the way you’re included in all aspects of our society. So that’s definitely one thing to watch,” Barrie said.

Barrie said they hope these annual findings are a talking point for Calgarians. (Maybe not so much around the water cooler these days though.)

The Calgary Foundation hopes it spurs more Calgarians to reach out to help organizations in areas they feel passionate about.  Their Community Knowledge Centre has a snapshot of more than 700 charities for Calgarians to find out more and to lend some time or resources.

“I would encourage people, if they have the means to give back, to look at the organizations that are doing the work very capably and effectively and see if they can support them,” she said.

It might just improve your sense of belonging.