(Photo: Paul Hamilton/Flickr)
The Canadian Index of Wellbeing is a project out of the University of Waterloo that attempts to quantify how well the country is doing beyond the usual economic indicators — and a new report released by the group today zeroes in on a single province: Ontario. The report looks at the changes in the standard of living between 1994 and 2010, and computes what it calls an "Index of Wellbeing," based primarily on a range of Statistics Canada surveys covering education, community vitality, environment, health, democratic engagement and more. It found that while the province's Gross Domestic Product increased by 24.1 per cent, the well-being index lagged behind, growing only 7.3 per cent.
For a better sense of the way life in Ontario changed over that period of time, here are five differences from the mid-'90s to today highlighted in "How Are Ontarians Really Doing?"
1. They're living longer
An Ontarian born in 2009 could expect, on average, to live until 81.5 years of age — a four per cent increase from 1994. Fewer Ontarians report being depressed (a drop of 5.7 per cent), and significantly fewer teens are smoking (a drop from 19.2 to 9.3 per cent).
2. They're spending more time on the road (or the train)
In 1994, the average daily commute for Ontarians was 47.1 minutes — long enough, certainly, but significantly less than the 2010 figure, of 53.5 minutes. That difference adds up to an extra 27 hours of commuting per year. Unsurprisingly, those living in the Greater Toronto Area have the longest commute times, averaging an hour in length.
3. They've got less time for leisure and culture
According to the study, Ontarians are socializing less now than they were in the mid-'90s, a drop of about 30 to 40 minutes each week spending time with friends and family. This mirrors a nationwide decline in socializing, and is particularly acute in women, who dropped seven per cent. Ontarians are also spending less of their disposable income on cultural activities — a drop of almost 12 per cent from 1994 to 2005. And overall, attendance at performing arts events dropped 8.1 per cent from 1994 to 2010.
4. They're taking longer vacations
Well, a bit longer. The average nights spent away from home edged up in recent years by 8.8 per cent between 1994 and 2010, and the biggest increase actually came from those with lower household incomes. The study points out, however, that those vacations are not happening at National Parks and Historic Sites, which saw a drop of 38.2 per cent in visitors in Ontario — about 92,000 people per year — over the same period.
5. They're volunteering more
In 2008, two-thirds of Ontarians participated in volunteer groups or community associations — an increase from about half the population in the mid-'90s. The study also found that they feel more attached to their local communities, and that crime rates are at a 17-year low. Perhaps as a result, Ontarians now feel safer than ever, with 81.6 per cent reporting they feel safe walking alone in the dark.