Here’s how Canadians feel about 2023 and the top word they use to describe it

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Another calendar year has all but passed, and as Canadians reflect on the past 12 months, public opinion research firm the Angus Reid Institute says 2023 is receiving mixed reviews.

How people feel about the year varies to some extent based on factors like their age and sex, but for many, it appears the overall economic picture has soured memories of the year.

The firm surveyed 1,516 Canadian adults, who are members of the Angus Reid Forum, between Dec. 15 and 19 and found that, considering factors such as their health, happiness and financial situation, 70 per cent say they are either happy or very happy as 2023 comes to a close. Meanwhile, 27 per cent they are “not too happy.”

After a difficult year for many Canadians’ finances, 44 per cent said they are dissatisfied with their economic situation. Predictably, financial unhappiness is much more common in lower income brackets than higher ones.

On the mental health front, 32 per cent of respondents say they’re dissatisfied with how they feel currently. The figure is higher among young women, 45 per cent of whom say their mental health could be better.

BIGGEST FACTORS BEHIND LIFE SATISFACTION

To measure Canadians’ satisfaction levels, Angus Reid separated respondents into four groups along what it calls a “Life Satisfaction Index” based on their answers. These include the very satisfied, the satisfied, the dissatisfied and the very dissatisfied.

According to the survey results, the biggest variables driving life satisfaction include age, income level and whether or not respondents live with kids.

The majority of respondents said they are satisfied with their finances, but 44 per cent are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

People shop inside a Metro grocery store in Toronto, Tuesday, July 18, 2023. Many Canadians struggled with the cost of living this year, especially as food prices rose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

More than half of those with household incomes less than $50,000 said they are not satisfied with their finances, and 48 per cent of those living in households earning less than $25,000 annually are very dissatisfied.

Canadians living with kids were also less likely to express life satisfaction than those without, especially when it came to how respondents felt about their physical health, leisure time and finances.

Regardless of sex, Canadians 54 and older tend to be most satisfied with their lives. According to Angus Reid, some of this correlates to income level, as those who are older are more likely to be financially secure, own a home and have other “stabilizing lifestyle factors.”

A fourth significant factor is whether or not the respondent identifies as a visible minority. Among visible minorities in Canada, 65 per cent responded that they are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied overall. Among non-visible minorities, this proportion is much smaller at 48 per cent.

This is consistent with previous Angus Reid studies which have found Canadians who identify as visible minorities are more likely to struggle finding a family doctor, more likely to report feeling discriminated against based on their race or ethnicity and less likely to say there has been progress at eradicating racism in Canada.

ONE PANDEMIC EARLIER…

A lot has happened since the last time the Angus Reid Institute surveyed Canadians on their life satisfaction levels in 2016, and it shows.

Seven years ago, before COVID-19 and at a time when the economic climate was more stable, 79 per cent of respondents said they were either very happy or pretty happy. In 2023, that proportion has dropped to 70 per cent, with a nine-percentage point increase in those saying they’re “not too happy” with their lives.

The proportion satisfied with their stress levels has also dropped five percentage points over this period.

One thing that has remained steady since 2016 is respondents’ low level of financial satisfaction relative to other areas of their lives. Despite economic uncertainty and months of inflation, respondents rated their financial satisfaction one percentage point higher in 2023 than in 2016, at 57 per cent versus 56 per cent.

An improvement worth noting is a five-percentage point increase in Canadians’ self-reported satisfaction with their love lives, from 64 per cent to 69 per cent.

IN A WORD, 2023 WAS…

What all of this adds up to is a population split by the words they would use to describe their year.

Angus Reid asked respondents to describe how they feel about their past 12 months using a list of 15 words, both positive and negative.

The two most chosen words were grateful and exhausting, followed by anxious, satisfying, frustrating, normal, happy, depressing, gloomy, cheerful, boring and energizing.

Women of all ages were more likely to voice anxiousness this year compared to their male peers.

METHODOLOGY

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) conducted an online survey from Dec. 15 to 19, 2023, among a representative randomized sample of 1,516 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

The Life Satisfaction Index was scored by using all responses to question 2 in the survey about satisfaction with various elements of life. If someone was very satisfied with one aspect, they received two points. One point was given if they were just “satisfied.” For negative responses the same scoring was used but subtracting points rather than adding.

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Here’s how Canadians feel about 2023 and the top word they use to describe it

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