Most Canadians happy, Globe survey finds
A new Gandalf Group survey commissioned by The Globe and Mail suggests Canadian adults are satisfied with many aspects of their lives, with the most powerful determinants being mental health and having a sense of purpose
By Gail Johnson
of Canadians report being very happy
Sixty-seven per cent of Canadians report being very happy, generally speaking, and 68 per cent are very satisfied with their lives, according to a new, nationwide Gandalf Group survey conducted for The Globe and Mail. Just 5 per cent of Canadians say they are very unhappy. The online survey of nearly 2,500 adults looked at Canadians’ overall happiness and the level of satisfaction with specific aspects of their personal, family, social, work, and financial lives. The margin of error for a probability sample of this size would be plus or minus 2 per cent, 19 times out of 20, according to the Gandalf Group. The sample of Canadians was weighted to reflect the country’s gender, age, and regional distribution.
The most powerful overall determinants of happiness and satisfaction with life are mental health and having a sense of purpose. The area that Canadians are least content with? Their sex lives. Just 37 per cent say they’re very satisfied with sexual encounters or activity — the lowest score of all of the survey questions.
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Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey found that income is strongly associated with happiness; the higher the income, the happier people are. Nearly 80 per cent of respondents in households earning more than $150,000 annually report being very happy, compared with 57 per cent of those making less than $50,000.
As income increases, so does Canadians’ satisfaction with multiple factors, including mental health, sense of purpose, work-life balance, physical health, sexual encounters/activity, and personal growth. However, money is just one facet that contributes to contentment. In fact, despite contentment levels, 43 per cent of Canadians say they feel they’re falling behind financially, and just 47 per cent of working Canadians are very happy with their salaries. Only half are very satisfied with their ability to save or have enough disposable income to enjoy life or afford housing. Just 43 per cent of Canadians are very satisfied with the financial advice they receive. The online survey yielded other intriguing results.
of Canadians are very happy with their salaries
of people 65 and up are very happy
As age increases, so do people’s happiness and satisfaction. Canadians aged 55 and older are happier than younger Canadians; 78 per cent of people 65 and up are very happy, compared with 62 per cent of those aged 18 to 34. Older Canadians are substantially happier than younger ones when it comes to their jobs, as well as their partners or relationships, including those with their neighbours. Younger Canadians are substantially less likely than older Canadians to say they are satisfied with their overall mental health. “The survey gave us the ability to see how younger people and older people differed on a lot of the drivers of happiness,” says Alex Swann, principal at Gandalf Group.
“The fact that older people are happier with their physical appearance than younger people and are happier with their physical health than younger people seems ironic, and it may have to do with expectations on one hand, but it may also have to do with the degree of stress or pressure that young people put on themselves.”
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Older people’s happiness may go back to their financial status. They have far more money set aside than younger Canadians. Just 12 per cent of those aged 65 and up are very concerned about having enough money for retirement, as opposed to 35 per cent of Canadians aged 45 to 54 and 29 per cent of 35- to 44-year-olds.
People aged 65 and up are far more likely than younger Canadians to be satisfied with their cost of housing and the amount of disposable income they have to enjoy life. With millennials facing steep housing costs, the potential exists for overall happiness among Canadians to decline as younger people move through life’s stages.
The age where Canadians are far more likely to be financially satisfied
of Quebec residents report that they are very happy
People in Quebec are clearly doing something right: They are notably more satisfied with various aspects of their lives than those living in other parts of the country. While 67 per cent of all Canadians report that they are very happy, 74 per cent of Quebec residents say the same.
Sixty-one per cent of people in Quebec are very satisfied with the amount of leisure time they get, compared with 57 per cent of all Canadians; more Quebeckers are very satisfied with the amount of sleep they get, as well as their physical and mental health. They are also more likely to say they have a sense of purpose (67 per cent compared with 62 per cent across Canada).
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Canadians’ satisfaction with their work lives, meanwhile, is mixed. While people are just as satisfied with the work they do as they are with their family life or sense of purpose, a majority are very satisfied with their current job, work that is worthwhile and interesting, professional field, work hours, workplace culture, and commute time.
At the same time, less than half are satisfied with their salaries, pension and health benefits, the amount or type of recognition they get for their work, career advancement, stress levels, and opportunities to improve their abilities. The last two points are important ones for employers to consider if they want to attract and retain talent. “There’s still room for employers where you can’t move on salary but you can still try to at least ensure the work is worthwhile and interesting and to try to remove stress and provide opportunities for advancement in other ways,” Mr. Swann says.
Just 3 per cent of women express dissatisfaction with the state of sexual harassment at work. However, harassment is a critical determinant of their work-life happiness, one that far outweighs factors such as commute time, coworkers, or benefits. The survey also found that, for men and women, when incomes are held constant, work that is interesting and worthwhile drives their job satisfaction.
Less than half of Canadians are satisfied with their salaries
of Canadians feel mostly positively about their mental health
Family life is more likely to be a source of happiness than a source of stress. More Canadians feel good about their family relationships than those who are satisfied with their lives in general – especially parents with children and those in relationships. Canadians feel mostly positively about their mental health (67 per cent are very satisfied) and their sense of purpose in life (62 per cent).
There are several areas where Canadians could feel happier, aside from their sexual encounters. Only 56 per cent are very satisfied with their physical health and 58 per cent are very satisfied with the amount of leisure time they have. While most are very satisfied with the quality of friendships in their lives, they feel less satisfied with the amount of time they have with those friends.
The Globe and Mail will be exploring some of these key themes in greater detail in the coming weeks. Until then, view a PDF of the full survey results here.
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