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Results from Nova Scotia-wide quality of life survey to be released soon

A smiley face is imposed over the centre of the Cape Breton flag in this photo illustration.
A smiley face is imposed over the centre of the Cape Breton flag in this photo illustration. - Chris Connors

Are Cape Bretoners happier than mainlanders?

SYDNEY, N.S. —

Are Cape Bretoners still happier than their mainland counterparts?

That question will be answered in the coming weeks when Engage Nova Scotia releases the results of a survey that measured the overall quality of life in 10 regions across the province.

Danny Graham
Danny Graham

Danny Graham, chief engagement officer of the non-profit organization, said about 12,800 people — including 2,068 in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and 512 in the Strait area and western Cape Breton — responded to the 230-question survey, which took about 35 minutes to complete.

“This clearly resonated with many Cape Bretoners and it gives us a signal that they’re enthusiastic about the project,” said Graham, a former leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party who was raised in Sydney and is the son of the late Sen. Al Graham.

“We were told by pollsters that the length of it was prohibitive and we might only get a two per cent response rate, but we ended up with a 16 per cent response rate across the province. That was incredibly encouraging for us and it shows that this notion of measuring and improving our quality of life has high resonance with people from one end of the province to the other.”

AMBITIOUS EXERCISE

Graham said Engage Nova Scotia decided to launch the survey a few years ago after they asked Nova Scotians how success should be determined. While 68 per cent said economic growth, 81 per cent said quality of life. The challenge then became finding a sophisticated means to measure quality of life, he said.

“So what’s unique about this and what’s exciting about this is that it’s one of the most ambitious exercises ever undertaken, at least in a Canadian context, to first measure the drivers of quality of life so that we can better target the initiatives that improve it,” he said.

“We are aware that economic measurements are important determiners of how we are doing generally, but we sometimes mistake economic indicators as the only proxy for social progress, and in this survey, we are asking questions that drive health, happiness and purpose in one’s life to a deeper extent. It includes questions about the number of close friendships that somebody has. Time with family members and in particular children. Flexibility in work hours. Time in nature. The sense of trust that they have in others. Their sense of community vitality and the degree to which they live in a vibrant place. Access to recreational and cultural opportunities are included in it. Commute times. And many questions about satisfaction with work environment. The difference between having a job and having a job that’s satisfying are two different questions, and there are several questions that sort of go to the heart of whether work is meaningful.”

THOSE WHO LIKE IT

Calling it “one of the largest data sets on well-being that’s ever been assembled anywhere,” Graham said the survey builds on a report they released last year that found that people in Cape Breton were more satisfied with their lives than any other area of the province and that Inverness was the happiest community in Nova Scotia.

“That data set that we worked with before generally signals that Nova Scotians are happier and more satisfied with their lives than the Canadian average and those, for example in the provinces of Ontario, B.C. and Alberta. And people in rural communities, including the rural communities of Cape Breton Island, are even more satisfied than even the provincial average,” said Graham. “Those are all reference points and those are all positive signs, but that data set, while it’s generally rosy, the difference between those who are happiest and those who are least happy is greater than any other province except for one. It reminds me a little bit of the Alexander Keith’s slogan, that those who like it, like it a lot. We’re interested in knowing why do they like it a lot, and why are those who are at the other end not experiencing the same thing, and how do we begin to close the gap of this inequality of happiness that is suggested in the data that we’ve come up with.”

The survey and report were both conducted by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing at the University of Waterloo (the same researchers who compile the UN’s annual World Happiness Report).

HURDLES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Graham said the results of the survey will be released later this month or in February.

However, that’s just the beginning.

Graham said teams led by the Nova Scotia Community College have been analyzing the results for their individual region. Once the report is released, they will meet with local stakeholders and the public to set priorities and begin to address problems that diminish quality of life while shining a light on those things that make people happy.

“What we don’t want is for the survey results just to get launched and it sits somewhere where nobody is really diving into it. Our goal is to give Nova Scotians the means to better understand and rise to our challenges and opportunities, and this is a classic tool for doing that,” said Graham.

“The results of this survey reflect sort of two sides of the same coin. One relates to the hurdles in front of us and the other relates to the hidden opportunities to be better and to see ourselves in a more positive light than perhaps we held ourselves in before.”

RELATED: Inverness happiest place in Nova Scotia

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