Almost half of BC feels lonely – but there is hope

According to new research released today by United Way of the Lower Mainland, almost half (46%) of British Columbians say they sometimes feel lonely – but there is an upside.  

The same poll also found that giving back as part of a group, whether you donate time or money, makes us feel better than doing it alone. British Columbians report that giving to charity is 10% more meaningful as part of a group campaign, while volunteering is 21% more meaningful with other people you know.  

In other words: giving is better, together.  

people walking in downtown Vancouver

While rates of loneliness across the province are remarkably high, giving and volunteering with others offers an antidote to social isolation.

“We know social isolation is a growing problem in our communities, and we’ve all felt lonely at different times in our lives,” says Jennifer Marshall, Director of Donor Experience with United Way of the Lower Mainland.

“The good news is giving back is one way you can foster valuable social connections, for yourself and for others. Getting together and giving together is one antidote to social isolation.”  

Chance to take action, today

The research release coincides with an event dubbed Better Together, by United Way.

Better Together features a hands-on workshop where participants will discover how they can apply their skills and passions to tackle vulnerability and isolation in their own neighbourhoods. The event takes place at 3pm Oct 8, in the Woodward’s Building in Gastown.

Some spots are still available for Better Together! More details here. 

The meet-up will also include an address from Jim Diers, author, international community-building expert, and the former Director of Neighbourhoods in Seattle, Washington.  

Jim Diers speaks to Surrey residents

Community-building expert Jim Diers speaks to residents of Clayton Heights in Surrey, October 2018. Clayton Heights is home to one of United Way’s Hi Neighbour initiatives.

“Everywhere I work, from Tokyo to London, there is a growing epidemic of loneliness,” says Jim. “It’s such a problem that some governments are even establishing ministries to address it.

“But bureaucrats can’t solve loneliness. Only community can do that.”  

Tackling isolation head-on

Diers’s belief in the power of community, along with the research released today, affirms an approach United Way has implemented in a new initiative called Hi Neighbour.  

Recognizing the need to tackle social isolation on a local level, over the past year United Way has embedded community engagement teams in eight neighbourhoods across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.  

Indigenous kids and their canoe coach in North Vancouver

At the North Vancouver Canoe Club, coaches train local kids in the Coast Salish tradition of war canoeing. After launching Hi Neighbour in Lower Lonsdale and engaging closely with residents, United Way was able to support the program and its girls’ team, the Lil Geese.

“Through our Hi Neighbour initiatives, we’re listening to residents and following their lead on local issues that matter most to them,” says Jenn.

In many communities we hear social isolation is a concern, so we provide the tools and resources for residents to co-create solutions, together.”  

United Way Hi Neighbour initiatives are currently active in Clayton Heights (Surrey), Lower Lonsdale (North Vancouver), Burke Mountain (Coquitlam), Sardis (Chilliwack), Cedar Valley (Mission), Sunset (Vancouver), Willoughby (Langley), and Edmonds (Burnaby). Click here to get involved! 

Research also reveals regional differences

United Way’s research uncovered other insights and regional differences related to community pride, neighbourliness and isolation: 

  • For British Columbians who say they love where they live, there is a stronger sense of meaning derived from group volunteer experiences. Of those who say they have a strong connection to their community, 54% say volunteering with others is a meaningful experience (compared to the provincial average of 48%).
  • Meanwhile, you might say those in the Fraser Valley and Northern B.C. are friendlier, and fonder of giving back together. Both regions have the highest proportion of people in B.C. who report talking to neighbours 5 times a week or more, at 27%. People in the Fraser Valley and Northern B.C. are also more likely to volunteer in groups, many times per year (21%, 22% respectively), compared to the British Columbia average (13%).
  • Across B.C., Vancouver is home to the highest proportion of people who report a strong sense of connection to their city (39%), while the Fraser Valley has the lowest (27%).
  • People in Other Metro areas and the Fraser Valley are less likely to say they feel lonely (8%, 3% respectively) compared to the average British Columbian (14%). 

Click here to download the complete research summary.

By working neighbourhood by neighbourhood, United Way is fostering innovative new partnerships on a hyper-local level. See how the Lil Geese in Lower Lonsdale are pulling for success with support from United Way. 

Hi Neighbour is powered by the passion and skills of residents just like you. See how residents of Burke Mountain are sharing their love of soccer to local kids and families.