Did you know the smell of pine trees decreases stress? That income is a predictor of engaging in leisure activity? That crime is linked to literacy, inequality and the built environment?
These relationships give us just a hint of the interconnectedness of different factors in our communities, and underline the value of tracking the State of our City indicators. Our indicators span the environment, social well-being, economic well-being, education, and governance, and they speak to our quality of life in sometimes unexpected ways.
Today’s post provides an overview of Community Indicators for State of our City 2013, which measures how – and how much – we contribute to community life. The results are positive overall:
- Sense of community – which is related to nearly every aspect of social well-being, from crime prevention to happiness to voter turnout – is on the rise in Calgary.
- More Calgarians are attending festivals every year.
- Crime has been decreasing consistently (as seen in the table below), including person crimes, property crimes, % crimes committed by youth, and weapons crimes.
- We’re working fewer overtime hours, and doing less unpaid overtime work since peaking in 2007 and 2005 respectively.
- We’re engaged in our Community Associations.
On the negative side, domestic violence calls recently reached a 5-year high, and research tells us that many domestic events go unreported. There are indications, however, that this rate of reporting is on the rise.
Other Community Indicators are mixed. More Calgarians are volunteering, but we are volunteering fewer hours – though this year’s tremendous efforts in recovering from the flood have yet to be accounted for. In addition, volunteerism still isn’t captured by official economic statistics, but provides a tremendous amount of value in the school system, elder care, skills-building, and the natural environment.
Lastly, our involvement in leisure activity has remained fairly steady, with 60.1% of Calgarians being active enough to experience health benefits.
Here’s a breakdown of the stats:
- Property crime is down 45%, 1999-2011
- Person Crime is down 28%, 1999-2011
- Domestic violence calls reached a 5-year high in 2011 (15,917 calls)
- 60.1% Calgarians were active enough to experience health benefits in 2012
- 12.4 hours was the average overtime of an Albertan in 2009, down from 2007
- 11% of Albertans worked unpaid overtime in 2009, down from 2005
Membership in Community Associations
- Approximately 14.4% of Calgarians were members of their community associations in 2008
- Community association volunteers in Calgary number 20,000+
- 1,800 Calgarians are community association board members
Number of and Attendance at Public Festivals
- Festival attendance at the 10 festivals tracked by Sustainable Calgary increased by 13,800, or 3%
Sense of Community
- 90% Calgarians agreed that they were able to go to other Calgarians for help in 2010
- 80% of visible minorities, immigrants and new immigrants were satisfied with the social aspects of their lives, for feeling safe and protected by others, despite reporting difficulties finding jobs, adequate housing and stress due to economic concerns in 2010
- 64% Calgarians have a strong or somewhat strong sense of belonging to a local community – a 5-year high
- 50% of Calgarians volunteered in 2010
- 55% Albertans volunteered in 2010 (3rd place among provinces)
- 47% of Canadians volunteered in 2010
- 140 volunteer hours was the Alberta average in 2010 (12th place among provinces)
- Best in class: Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia
What we can do to contribute to the health of our communities:
So many of our community indicators are inter-related: crime prevention is strongly linked to reducing inequality and poverty, and increasing literacy; sense of community, along with the design of the built environment, can contribute to the success of crime prevention strategies and economic development efforts; sense of community is linked to City services, such as libraries and public transit, to community events, such as public festivals, and to community amenities, such as community gardens.
These inter-connections may paint a picture of complexity – rightly so. But the other implication is that any positive contributions we make in our communities are likely to have effects well beyond what we imagine.
Tackling issues like crime and domestic violence certainly require big system approaches like investing in education and literacy, and poverty prevention strategies based on income supports and wage policies. But communities have an essential role in developing our quality of life, in their capacity to be responsive to local nuance, and in creating the conditions for higher-level policies and programs to succeed.
A strong sense of community typically leads to healthier families, higher quality of child-rearing, higher mental health, higher reported overall health, and a greater sense of competence. The list goes on!
Here are some ways you can get involved:
- Get to know your neighbours and other community members
- Join your community association
- Become a volunteer at your favourite festival
- Go for a walk
- Stop and smell the pine trees!
- Volunteer with agencies that assist those who are isolated
- Support the adoption of economic measurement tools such as the Canadian Index of Well-being that factor volunteer work into assessments of our economic well-being (ciw.org)
- Support pro-active social programs that make our community more inclusive
- Support devoting a larger share of transportation spending to walking and cycling infrastructure – to get us more active!
- Support measures to reduce crime and inequality systemically, including investing in early childhood development, education and literacy, and more effective social nets
- Support measures to help those vulnerable to domestic abuse, including childcare subsidies and financial supports and resources available to stay-at-home parents
Thanks for tuning in to this Community Indicators edition of State of our City 2013, and keep an eye out for more results next week!
Alberta Survey on Physical Activity
Canadian Community Health Survey
Sign Posts II