It seems surprising — and yet it doesn’t — that BC’s Lower Mainland residents are meh at belonging. Given the warm climate and Lotus Land rep, you’d think we’d be nothing but kind and inclusive to each other, scoring high at creating a sense of belonging. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet and have some work to do.
A March 2018 report from My Health My Community shows the results of a 2013-2014 survey of more than 33,000 of us about our sense of belonging. The research focused on 1) a perception of community belonging, and 2) how many of us have a reasonable number of people to confide in. In this study, four or more people to tell your problems to or call when you really need help is a primary indicator of belonging.
Surprise 1: newcomers with five years or less in Canada were as likely as Canadian-born to report a strong sense of belonging and 4+ people to confide in. This is truly impressive. Newcomers arrive in the Lower Mainland facing multiple barriers and obstacles, often with only a limited number of contacts. Yet they report belonging and friendship. (Maybe newcomers should be teaching the rest of us about networking.)
Surprise 2: Sense of belonging among seniors also shows the highest numbers and seems to increase incrementally with age. Close to 80% of 70-year-old respondents reported a sense of belonging. Compare that with 44% of 19 to 29 year-olds. Age matters.
And, less of a surprise, but still: People who’ve lived in their homes for 13 or more years also experience a strong sense of belonging and they are 2.5 times more likely than those who’ve lived in the community 2 years or less.
The bad news: 43% of us throughout the Lower Mainland report low or very low sense of belonging. Almost half have 1 – 3 people to confide in; a quarter of us have 4 – 6 people to confide in and one in five has 7 people to confide in.
Over the past two decades, the price of real estate and the job market have driven Lower Mainland residents to move away; the belonging survey shows the implications. When friends move to the Okanagan or to Toronto or elsewhere, that easy confiding ability undergoes strain. Sure, you can Skype or visit, but gradually the bonds break apart and new friendships have to be made.
Each time a friend moves away, you feel the loss and wonder about making a new investment in someone new. Will he/she soon be off to more affordable locales? We know we have to be positive but the situation does wear on folks and you can see it in the results of the survey.
Recent immigrants model the resilience the rest of us need. They experience belonging and friendship in ways that keep them healthy and optimistic.
Similarly, Stanley Q. Woodvine models compassionate concern for homeless Vancouverites who appear to be sleeping but may be in medical distress. You can read his respectful approach to waking people here.
How we experience belonging is more than a state of mind. It incorporates our access to friendships and how safe we feel in our neighborhoods.