Calgarians feel overall quality of life has decreased, according to Vital Signs 2021

Sixty-four per cent of its 1,000 respondents said they felt they had a good quality of life — representing an 11 per cent drop from 2021.

From mental health to feeling isolated, young people are especially struggling, the results suggest

Thirty-five per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds in Calgary rated their mental health as poor or below average in the latest Vital Signs report. (Pormezz/Shutterstock)

Many Calgarians feel their overall quality of life has decreased during the pandemic, according to the 2021 Vital Signs report.

Sixty-four per cent of its 1,000 respondents said they felt they had a good quality of life — representing an 11 percentage point drop from 2020.

The report is released annually by the Calgary Foundation. It combines research with a citizen survey on issues tied to quality of life that include living standards, the environment and nature, and giving back and values.

The results help the foundation, which funds hundreds of charities every year, determine where it directs its resources.

"For the first time in a number of years, I was quite startled by the overall quality of life rating," said Taylor Barrie, the foundation's vice-president of communications, about the results.

"We can attribute that to a number of things every year, but I think there's no doubt that we can draw a direct line to being in the pandemic for 18 months."

Mental health and stress

COVID-19 might have started about a year and a half ago, but it is evident that it continues to present challenges for many people in Calgary, Barrie said.

According to the report, 51 per cent of respondents rated their mental health as good or excellent, which was down from 58 per cent in 2020.

Young people are especially struggling, the results suggest: 35 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds rated their mental health as poor or below average.

That's in comparison to 20 per cent of Calgarians 25 and older, and eight per cent of those who are older than 65.

Young people also ranked the highest in feeling the stress of health concerns and isolation, while 33 per cent of overall respondents reported feeling stressed due to finances.

Thirty per cent of respondents also said they frequently feel exhausted. 

"People are stressed, they're tired, they're feeling isolated, they're worried about family members," Barrie said.

"I definitely think this is highlighting some of the gaps and the inequities that the pandemic has really exacerbated."

Gaps and barriers

Those gaps include access to mental health and addictions services.

Thirty per cent of respondents overall said they don't have access to mental health services, while 44 per cent said they don't have access to addictions support.

The foundation itself, Barrie says, funds many charities that are doing this kind of work every day. But people are still facing barriers.

"We know these organizations exist, but clearly, especially young people are having trouble accessing the services they need," Barrie said.

Job insecurity is also a factor weighing on Calgarians.

Fifty-one per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 experienced reduced hours or temporary or permanent job loss.

And just 39 per cent of respondents from the ages of 18 to 24 think home ownership is affordable, compared with 68 per cent of Calgarians overall.

"They're struggling to find meaningful work, many of them have had their hours cut or lost jobs entirely," Barrie said. 

"They don't really see a clear path to home ownership in our city."

But on the whole, optimism about Calgary's economy still improved over the past year. 

It jumped from just 14 per cent in 2020 to 41 per cent in 2021.

Racism in Calgary

Perspectives on racism have also changed since last year.

Seventy-seven per cent think racism exists toward Black, Indigenous, and people of colour — down from 82 per cent of respondents in 2020.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents believe Black, Indigenous, and racialized people have opportunities to be equal participants in community — down from 58 per cent in 2020.

And 78 per cent believe it's important to learn about shared history from an Indigenous perspective, including the impacts of residential schools and intergenerational trauma.

This is up from 73 per cent in 2020.

Part of the community

Overall, 88 per cent said they feel Calgary is a good place for families to live, while 83 per cent believe Calgary is a good place for young people to live.

However, 30 per cent of respondents said they foresaw moving out of Calgary in the near future.

According to Barrie, this could correlate with the weak sense of belonging felt by 19 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 24.

"You're going to stick around if you feel like you're a part of the community," Barrie said.

"If you don't feel that, you're going to look for that elsewhere."

With files from Rick Donkers


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