Are Canadians Happy?

Posted on August 3, 2021
By Elle Richards

We have seen shifts in happiness around the world, and the pandemic has changed the global shape of happiness. Much of our lives are driven by our pursuit of happiness and yet happiness may not be a silver bullet but rather a state of mind, an intrinsic feeling that may be determined and influenced by both internal and external factors. How do we know who is happy? And how do Canadians fare?


On 7 July 2021, we hosted a webinar with Richard Jenkins and Oksana Kishchuk from Abacus Data who shared their findings on recent research and trends in Canada on happiness using their Happiness Monitor. Consider the Happiness Monitor’s set of eight questions used as indicators of happiness for individuals:

  1. I am living life to the fullest
  2. I wake up most mornings excited about what the day will bring
  3. I am very optimistic about the future
  4. Life is very rewarding
  5. I am fulfilled by my relationships with others
  6. I am not happy with the state of the world
  7. I haven’t achieved as much in life as I thought I would have by now

The webinar explored the concept of happiness in relation to community wellbeing, looking at dimensions of happiness, and the impacts of COVID-19 on levels of happiness.

The speakers shed light on the relationship of happiness to community and wellbeing. Happiness may seem like a fluffy concept but is an important measurement of how we are doing individually and collectively, at the community and national level. The discussion highlighted how a happiness indicator or GNH (Gross National Happiness) may indeed be more appropriate in measuring a country’s success over its GDP (Gross Domestic Product), or rather by its GDP being just one component of a much bigger picture that must be understood more holistically; it is clear that a one-dimensional economic model is not working.


Canadians rank number 11 out of over 150 countries on the 2021 world happiness score–not bad. This rank is decided by the countries’ performance in areas including social support and freedom to make one’s own life choices. Sense of belonging and social connections all contribute to wellbeing; applying wellbeing as a lens for decision-making is a multi-dimensional approach gaining traction in communities across Canada.


As the World Happiness Report 2021 points out, mental health, social connections and wellbeing have all taken a dive since the onset of the pandemic. The team at Abacus Data has been tracking happiness for Canadians throughout the pandemic.

Recent insights from this work are:

  • To challenge our assumptions about who is happy: higher-income earners do not fare better, and nor do youth – seniors have come out the happiest;
  • Happiness is directly correlated with mental health;
  • Community, wellbeing and happiness are strongly associated;
  • Variation during COVID has changed over time, and those who have felt the pandemic is behind us or perhaps were more optimistic, have scored better;
  • Happiness is linked to a feeling of control, stability and hopefulness.

Join is in August for Part 2 in this series as we delve deeper into what happiness means and explore how we can cultivate happier communities. Reach out to the team to register or connect further via Cities Deepening Community.


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Cities Deepening Community, Elle Richards, COVID-19, CDC Blogs

Elle Richards

By Elle Richards

Elle has joined the Vibrant Communities team as Manager of Cities, Cities Reducing Poverty. Her experience spans corporate, academic, health and community environments, and working on national, regional and local programs of work, both strategically and operationally. In recent years, Elle has focused her work around issues of food security, poverty and inequalities in health.

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