British Columbia

Local sense of belonging, connection split along generational lines during COVID-19, poll suggests

Young people have become increasingly isolated where they live, with many reporting they don't feel they belong in their own neighbourhoods, according to a newly released opinion poll by the Angus Reid Institute.

Half of 18- to 35-year-olds feel they don’t belong in their neighbourhood, Angus Reid Institute survey finds

A newly released opinion poll by the Angus Reid Institute has found a stark divide in how Canadians feel a sense of belonging, with younger adults under 34 reporting less social connection where they live. (KIWITANYA/TWENTY20)

Young people have become increasingly isolated where they live, with many reporting they don't feel they belong in their own neighbourhoods, according to a newly released opinion poll.

The Angus Reid Institute, which surveyed 4,000 Canadian adults, found that half of 18- to 35-year-olds feel they aren't connected in their local area.

The survey also found British Columbians had among the lowest local sense of connection among the country's provinces.

"Younger Canadian adults do not identify community in the same way their parents and grandparents do," said the institute's president, Shachi Kurl, in a phone interview. "It's much more rooted in things like lived experience and interests.

"There's a sense among younger Canadian adults that they just feel less connected to the places they live."

But not feeling links to neighbours does not mean young people are necessarily more isolated, Kurl said, adding that younger people seem to look increasingly to other sources for a sense of belonging — whether through ethnicity, gender or other identities, as well as online.

But older adults continue to find a disproportionate level of comfort and connection in the places they live, the survey found.

The findings represent a growing disconnect between generations in the country after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many, the pandemic put their sense of local connection or reliance on neighbours directly to the test, whether it was in coping with the closure of many community and recreational settings, or needing other people to physically help deliver groceries.

The survey asked respondents if someone nearby would check on them if they were sick at home, or if someone could be trusted with a key to their home if they needed to be away.

Just 40 per cent of those age 18 to 24 said they could count on someone nearby checking on them if they got sick, compared to three-quarters of those over 65.

And though two-thirds of that younger group felt they could leave a door key with a neighbour, that number was far higher for those over 65, among whom nearly nine in 10 would share a key.

"We live in an era where you can order your groceries, your dinner or your entertainment online; you don't have to leave your house," Kurl said.

"Younger people are far more likely to say that, if they got sick, there wasn't a neighbour or someone in their neighbourhood who would know to look in on them ... or that if they lost their wallet, there isn't a door they could knock on and say, 'Could you spot me $20, please?'"

Regional differences in belonging

The poll also found differences between Canadian provinces in how well-connected people feel socially. British Columbians reported feeling a lower sense of belonging to their local neighbourhood than the national average, the survey suggested.

Thirty-nine per cent of B.C. residents said they felt a weak or very weak sense of belonging to their neighbourhood. That number was similar to Saskatchewan and Manitoba's levels, but seven per cent higher than residents of Atlantic Canada.

"In B.C., almost half of the population is urban or suburban," Kurl said. "The disconnect is profound ... You see it in big cities.

"It may be that in rural populations, people are turning more to people who are near them physically."

The non-profit pollster conducted its survey over a week last November, in partnership with the Vancouver Foundation and Government House.

Among those who said social interactions have dropped in their neighbourhoods, 78 per cent blamed the pandemic. Nearly a quarter said they simply were less interested in talking to others these days.

Participants in the poll were drawn from a representative sample of members of online forums, and the results can be considered to have a margin of error equivalent to two per cent, 19 times out of 20.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David P. Ball

Journalist

David P. Ball is a multimedia journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. He has previously reported for the Toronto Star, Agence France-Presse, and The Tyee, and has won awards from the Canadian Association of Journalists and Jack Webster Foundation. You can send story tips or ideas to david.ball@cbc.ca, or contact him on Twitter.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now