OTTAWA: The proportion of Canadians reporting a hopeful outlook on the future is substantially lower compared with 5 to 6 years ago. In 2016, 75% of people in Canada reported feeling hopeful about the future, compared with 64% of the population in 2021/2022.
Statistics Canada reported that Some population groups have below-average levels of hopefulness, including persons with a disability and the LGBTQ2+ population. However, those who live in a larger household with children, or persons who have a strong sense of belonging to their local community have above-average levels of hopefulness.
While many COVID-19 mandates and restrictions have recently been lifted, the virus continues to spread in our communities. At the same time, the cost of living is increasing, meaning food, housing, and gasoline are all becoming less affordable, and that could make Canadians feel uncertain about the future.
Using new Canadian Social Survey (CSS) data, this study examines the future outlook of the Canadian population. Three waves of the CSS were combined to allow for better disaggregation of data.
Hopeful feelings about the future decline in all provinces
In every province, Canadians are feeling less hopeful about the future compared with how they felt in 2016, although the extent of the decline varied by province. British Columbia experienced the largest decline in the proportion of people reporting a hopeful outlook on the future from 2016 and 2021/2022 (from 76% to 62%).
Quebec’s population was the most hopeful about the future in 2021/2022 (70%), followed by Prince Edward Island (66%) and Saskatchewan (65%). These provinces also reported the highest levels of hopefulness in 2016.
Generally, people living in rural areas are more hopeful about the future than those living in urban areas (66% versus 64%). A notable exception was in Alberta, where 51% of the rural population was hopeful about the future compared with 64% of urban dwellers in 2021/2022. Additional research will be helpful to better understand these findings.
The overall results are consistent with trends observed with other key indicators of quality of life. According to the latest waves of the CSS, Quebec’s population was also more likely to report having a high level of satisfaction with life and a strong sense of meaning and purpose.
Young Canadians experience larger declines in hopefulness
In 2016, young Canadians were more hopeful than the older population. Nearly 8 in 10 Canadians aged 15 to 34 were always or often hopeful about the future in 2016, compared with 7 in 10 persons aged 65 and older. However, in 2021/2022, the younger group was as hopeful about the future as older Canadians—about 63% of 15 to 34 year-olds had a positive view of the future, down significantly from 2016 (-15%).
This finding coincides with a steady decline in mental health among youth. A decade ago, young Canadians reported better mental health than their older counterparts. However, the situation has since been reversed.
LGBTQ2+ people report less hopeful views of the future
Women (65%) held a slightly more hopeful view of the future than men (63%) in 2021/2022. However, transgender and non-binary individuals were considerably less hopeful about their futures (38%) compared with cisgender people.
Nearly one-half of LGBTQ2+ individuals—that is, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Two-Spirit, or who use other terms related to gender or sexual diversity—had a positive outlook on the future (49%). In comparison, nearly two-thirds of non-LGBTQ2+ individuals were hopeful about the future (65%).
There was variation within the LGBTQ2+ population based on sexual orientation. About 52% of those who were lesbian or gay, 49% of those who were bisexual, and 44% of those with another sexual orientation had a positive outlook on the future.
The LGBTQ2+ population’s less hopeful view of the future could be partly related to their higher likelihood to report having fair or poor mental health, to be violently victimized, or to seriously contemplate suicide during their lifetimes compared with the non-LGBTQ2+ population.
About one-half of persons with a disability have a hopeful view of the future in 2021/2022 Persons with a disability, difficulty or long-term condition were considerably less likely to have a hopeful outlook on their future compared with the rest of the population (53% versus 72%).
Economic and social challenges linked to a less hopeful outlook
Households that experienced financial difficulty meeting basic household needs during the pandemic, such as transportation, housing, food and clothing, had a less hopeful view of the future than those who did not experience financial hardship (47% versus 69%) in 2021/2022.
Similarly, compared with those who were employed (66%), people who were looking for paid work in the week prior to completing the survey were less likely to be hopeful about the future (51%).
Challenging social situations—such as experiences of discrimination—were also associated with lower levels of hopefulness. More specifically, 55% of individuals who experienced discrimination or unfair treatment in the past five years were hopeful about the future, while 68% of those who did not have those experiences held a hopeful outlook.
Population groups that had below-average levels of hopefulness included Japanese (55%; data should be used with caution), Chinese (58%), Southeast Asian (60%) and Korean (61%) ethnocultural groups. Notably, these groups have reported experiencing increased levels of discrimination during the pandemic.
Despite experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment at higher rates, some population groups reported above-average hopefulness about their futures, including the Black Canadian population (73%), recent immigrants (74%) and non-permanent residents (72%). This is consistent with previous findings that found the Black Canadian population reports higher than average resilience.
Larger households and community
Canadians who lived in multiple-person households with children were more hopeful about the future (70%) than those living in multiple-person households without children (64%) or those living alone (56%). Canadians on maternity, paternity or parental leave reported some of the highest levels of hopefulness (83%).
Nearly 8 in 10 people (78%) who had a strong sense of belonging to their local community always or often had a hopeful view of the future. Conversely, just over one-third of people who always or often felt lonely (35%) had a positive view of the future. – Statistics Canada Report