March 25, 2021

This is World Happiness Week. As Canadians we have a lot to be grateful for even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, the level of perceived life-satisfaction in Canada has been declining since 2005 when the first Gallup world happiness polls began collecting world happiness data.

Canada’s ranking on the world’s happiness rankings fell to 15th position in 2020 one spot behind in the US. Canada has fallen from being amongst the top 7 countries in the world life satisfaction rankings based Gallup’s world happiness polls. In 2015 Canada ranked 5th overall in world life satisfaction (happiness) rankings. Finland, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland and The Netherlands continue to remain the top happiest countries.

Since Gallup started polling self-rated happiness or life satisfaction in 2005, Canada’s overall life-satisfaction rose slightly reaching a peak in 2010 of 7.65 out of 10 maximum basis points. But since 2010 self-rated life satisfaction has been falling.

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According to the latest World Happiness Report for 2020, Canada’s life satisfaction ratings had fallen to 7.025 or a drop of 8.1%. However, according to the most recent Statistics Canada data on life satisfaction amongst Canadians in a national health and wellness survey taken in June 2020, average life satisfaction had fallen from 8.06 (out of 10.0) in 2018 to 6.71 on the same 0-10 life satisfaction scale used by Gallup; that represents a 1.38 basis points or a 17% drop in self-rated happiness. 

Using the StatsCan number for 2020 Canada’s average life satisfaction has fallen by 11.6% since the peak in 2010. While Gallup and Statistics Canada life satisfaction data are not directly comparable due to differences in sample size (StatsCan survey of Canadians is likely larger than the 1000 Canadians Gallup surveys in their annual happiness survey) the trends are similar with a steady decline in happiness since the mid 2000s. Why this is happening is unclear.

The drop in Canadian life satisfaction during the Covid 19 pandemic has been significant, which is of little surprise to most of us.

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When we compare provincial life-satisfaction ratings we see the changes over time by province we see that Quebec had the highest levels of citizen life satisfaction with 95.3% feeling satisfied to very satisfied with their life. Second was Saskatchewan (94.2%) followed by PEI (94.1%).

Covid isn’t the only reason life-satisfaction has been declining. So what explains our steady decline in life-satisfaction?

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