While we like to imagine two of our most cosmopolitan cities as harmonious melting pots, the truth is that people in Toronto and Vancouver really aren’t that happy.
In fact, they’re the most unhappy people in all of Canada.
This comes from a study conducted by three University of British Columbia researchers who used data from Statistics Canada to determine life satisfaction in 1200 neighbourhoods and communities across Canada.
So, what gives? The study points to a myriad of factors that contribute to happier urban neighbourhoods: high income, low employment, less money spent on housing, less foreigners, stronger religious affiliation, higher education, shorter commutes, and lower population density. You can probably gather that part of the problem is actually living in a big city, regardless of which one it is.
Mostly, however, people in Toronto and Vancouver are burdened by not having a sense of belonging to a community.
“Trust, involvement and a chance to join with others engaged in improving lives are all connected, with each adding happiness,” said study co-author John F. Helliwell.
Unfortunately, the solution is probably not as easy as plotting a few extra public benches around the city where neighbours can gather to sing “Kumbaya, my Lord” at sunset. Toronto and Vancouver have deep economic issues, like wildly unaffordable housing and populations crippled by debt (the former significantly impacting the latter).
It may feel nice to belong to a community, but does not feel nice to commit 70% of your income to housing or spend more than two dollars for every one dollar you earn. And with an inverse correlation between population density and happiness, the only long-term solution may be to opt for a more rural existence.