Areas of Wellbeing



The Canadian Index of Wellbeing

Vital Signs® 2022 is grounded in the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) – a framework established by the University of Waterloo to measure the overall wellness of Canadians. Prior to development of the CIW, the health of Canada’s population was measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which measures monetary values of goods and services produced within a country’s borders. Researchers recognized that economic growth is only one aspect of wellbeing and began to develop a framework that would measure what real life was like for real people across the country.

The CIW is used in partnership with the GDP, at the national level, to create a deeper understanding of quality of life and wellbeing across demographics and can be used to fuel evidence-based and community-focused decision-making. One thing that sets the CIW apart from other methodologies is the process used to create the eight areas of wellbeing. Developing the categories started with listening to Canadians about what they feel are the most important contributors to quality of life, and establishing indicators based on these conversations. The CIW tracks changes in eight quality of life categories or ‘areas of wellbeing’:

A sense of belonging and connection to others is a crucial aspect of quality of life. People’s feeling of community, relationships with family and friends, and opportunities to participate in activities have been shown to foster healthy individuals and communities. Attitudes and values are important contributors to community vitality because ideas, assumptions, and beliefs motivate social engagement and action. Commonly shared feelings of trust, belonging, and caring are markers of inclusive societies. Discrimination, on the other hand, challenges community relationships and creates barriers to the pursuit of wellbeing, especially for groups that are seen as different from others. This domain looks at our quality of life regarding the communities we live in. It tells us what is happening in our neighbourhoods, how safe we feel, and whether we are engaged in community activities or becoming socially isolated. Learn more.

A society that enjoys a high level of democratic engagement is one where citizens freely participate in political activities and express their views; where governments and leaders build relationships, trust, and encourage citizen participation; and where democratic values are promoted by citizens, community, and leadership. Diversity in representation in government helps ensure a diversity of perspectives and allows citizens to see themselves reflected in the halls of power, which encourages further political participation. Democratic engagement means taking part in the democratic process through political institutions, organizations, and activities. This domain explores how citizens take part in political and civic activities in more ways than just voting, including signing petitions and attending town halls, staying abreast of local news, and voicing concerns to their elected officials. Learn more.

Participation in education is vital to wellbeing because it prepares community members for a role in the workforce, which in turn leads to desirable social, psychological, and financial outcomes. High-quality childcare is shown to positively influence children’s social, emotional, developmental, and educational outcomes. Basic educational knowledge and skills, such as literacy and numeracy skills, are needed to function effectively in everyday life, and typically develop during the first years of school. Education is a core personal resource and a reflection of our ability to function and adapt in society. Education is also an important predictor of health, living standards, and democratic participation. The Education area of wellbeing focuses on school-based learning rather than informal learning and includes both traditional indicators of educational achievement along with some less conventional indicators of education across the life span and for future generations. Learn more.

From the resources that fuel our economy to the happiness that time spent outdoors can bring, the wellbeing of humans depends on the state of the environment. The quality of our environment affects our health, our ability to be active in nature, and reflects the type and amount of energy we use. Greenhouse gases, when produced through human activity, contribute to climate change, impacting access to water and fresh food which can lead to illness and disease, democratic disruption, and increased violence and conflict. This area of wellbeing identifies trends in the factors that contribute to climate change, anxiety experienced because of climate and the way Winnipeggers perceive the health of their environment. Learn more.

This area of wellbeing looks at the physical and mental health of a population and assesses whether various aspects are improving or deteriorating. Healthy Populations is mainly concerned with measuring health status, lifestyle and behaviour, and access to health care. The dimensions of health status (personal wellbeing, physical health conditions, life expectancy, mental health, and functional health) measure several aspects of health outcomes. The other dimensions (lifestyle and behaviour, public health) measure factors that affect our health and are often directly impacted by public policy. Learn more.

Participation in leisure and culture can be highly beneficial to wellbeing by contributing to better physical and mental health, and creating opportunities for socializing, relaxation, and learning new things. This area of wellbeing explores how often people take part in recreation, arts, and cultural activities. This area also looks into how accessible arts, culture, and recreation sites, including our river ways, are for most people. Taken together, these components are used to define, measure, and understand the relationship leisure and culture have to community wellbeing. Learn more.

The Living Standards area of wellbeing measures the level and distribution of Canadians’ income and wealth by monitoring poverty rates, income fluctuations, labour market security, and job quality. It also considers basic necessities such as food security and affordable housing. Learn more.

The Time Use category measures how Winnipeggers spend their time, what factors control time use, and how time use affects wellbeing. The pace of life can affect levels of stress and wellbeing, and impact everything from the ability to make home cooked meals to getting enough sleep. Learn more.

With advice from trusted community members, The Winnipeg Foundation adapted the CIW framework so it more closely reflects and aligns with the lived experiences of Winnipeggers. Acknowledging the development and use of this framework as an evolving process, The Winnipeg Foundation will continue working to better understand where community wellbeing is thriving and where struggles and gaps exist.