Canadian Index of Wellbeing

Edit Article

Audio/video on the CIW


The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) is a new way of measuring well-being that goes beyond narrow economic measures like GDP. It will provide insights into the quality of life of Canadians – overall, and in specific areas that matter: living standards, health, environment, education, time use, community vitality, democratic engagement, and leisure and culture. In short, the CIW is the only national index that measures well-being in Canada across a wide spectrum of domains. The CIW goes beyond conventional silos and shines a spotlight on the interconnections among these important areas: for example, how changes in income and education are linked to changes in health. The CIW is a robust information tool, one that policy shapers, decision makers, media, community organizations and the person on the street will be able to use to get the latest trend information in an easily understandable format.

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) Network is a national initiative supported by an independent, non-partisan group of national and international leaders, researchers, organizations, and grassroots citizens who are developing a new way of measuring wellbeing in Canada. The CIW Network is based at the University of Waterloo within the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences and is seen to be a global pioneer in developing a holistic and integrated approach to measuring wellbeing. The CIW Network tracks wellbeing in an effort to offer clear, effective and regular information on the quality of life of Canadians. This promotes a dialogue on how improvement can happen through progressive policies that are responsive to the needs and values of Canadians.

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) goes beyond narrow economic measures like GDP and provides the only national index that will measure wellbeing across a wide spectrum of domains. The CIW identifies a set of key indicators that will track Canada’s progress in eight interconnected domains of wellbeing:

  • COMMUNITY VITALITY measures the strength, activity and inclusiveness of relationships between residents, private sector, public sector and civil society organizations that fosters individual and collective wellbeing.
  • DEMOCRATIC ENGAGEMENT measures the participation of citizens in public life and in governance; the functioning of Canadian governments; and the role Canadians and their institutions play as global citizens.
  • EDUCATION measures the literacy and skill levels of the population, including the ability of both children and adults to function in various contexts and plan for and adapt to future situations.
  • ENVIRONMENT measures the state of and the trends in Canada’s environment by looking at the stocks and flows of Canada’s environmental goods and services.
  • HEALTHY POPULATIONS measures the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of the population by looking at different aspects of health status and certain determinants of health.
  • LEISURE AND CULTURE measures activity in the very broad area of culture, which involves all forms of human expression; the more focused area of the arts; and recreational activities.
  • LIVING STANDARDS measures the level and distribution of income and wealth, including trends in poverty; income volatility; and economic security, including the security of jobs, food, housing and the social safety net.
  • TIME USE measures the use of time, how people experience time, what controls its use, and how it affects wellbeing.


The CIW currently provides:

  • A comprehensive composite index designed by an interdisciplinary team of Canadian and international experts to measure the overall well-being of Canada. See the report, “How are Canadians “Really” doing?” (October 2012)
  • The national composite index report disaggregated to the provincial level. Our first provincial report, released April 29, 2014 is on Ontario. See the report, “How are Ontarians “Really” doing?”
  • Eight detailed research reports on different, but interconnected, categories of wellbeing:

Living Standards (June 2009), Healthy Populations (June 2009), Community Vitality (June 2009), Democratic Engagement (January 2010), Time Use (June 2010), Leisure & Culture (June 2010), Education (September 2010), and Environment (April 2011).

  • A Community Wellbeing Survey to better understand residents perceptions of their wellbeing. To date we have completed surveys in five communities across Canada as follows:

Ontario: Guelph, Kingston, Waterloo Region
British Columbia: Victoria
Alberta: Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray and outlying areas)

  • Special reports on the recession (July 2009) and select Canadian population sub-groups: low income, aboriginal peoples, racialized groups, and youth (December 2009), time crunch (June 2010).


Going forward, the CIW will provide:

  • Updates on the national CIW composite index in 2015, 2017, 2019, and on.
  • Updates on provincial CIW composite indices in 2016, 2018, 2020, and on.
  • Periodic research reports on wellbeing and social policy issues; particularly sub-population and spatial analysis


The Canadian Index of Wellbeing Network, now based within the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo, hosted a launch event on April 7th, 2011. Please click here for a selection of videos from the 2011 CIW launch on the following topics:

  • Opening remarks by Dr. Susan Elliott, Dean, Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo and Address by the Governor General of Canada, His Excellency The Right Honourable David Johnston.
  • Keynote Speech by The Honourable Roy J. Romanow, Chair, CIW Advisory Board.

Video address by the Honourable Roy J. Romanow to the OECD 4th World Forum at New Delhi, India on October 17, 2012. [ “The Canadian Index of Wellbeing
and its Successes as a Tool for Planning, Policymaking, and Nation Building.”]

Excerpts from the OECD Second World Forum, Istanbul, Turkey, June 2007, where the Honourable Roy J. Romanow gave a keynote address:

Speaking notes for the Honourable Roy J. Romanow for many of his highly acclaimed CIW speeches from 2003-2012.

Presentation by CIW Director Dr. Bryan Smale, for the Wikiprogress online discussion series. “As part of Civil Society, how the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) is leading change?”


Canadian Index of Wellbeing

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) Network is an independent, non-partisan group of national and international leaders, researchers, organizations, and grassroots citizens. The CIW Network is based at the University of Waterloo within the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. Its mission is to report on the well-being of Canadians, and promote a dialogue on how to improve it through evidence-based policies that are responsive to the needs and values of Canadians.


The CIW Network’s signature product is the  Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW). The CIW measures Canada’s wellbeing and tracks progress in eight interconnected categories. It allows Canadians to see if they are better off or worse off than they used to be — and why. It helps identify what Canadians need to change to achieve a better outcome and to leave the world a better place for the generations that follow.


The Canadian Index of Wellbeing Composite Index

A comprehensive composite index – the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) – benchmarking Canada’s well-being and tracking progress over time, was launched October 20, 2011 and updated in October 2012 with the report “How are Canadians “Really” doing?”. It is the work of Measuring what matters: an innovative initiative at the University of Waterloo in Canada to demonstrate that measuring well-being is as important as measuring the economy.

“Most Canadians realize that our well-being cannot be measured by just narrow economic measures like the GDP,” said the Honourable Roy Romanow, Chair of the CIW Advisory Board. “The CIW is a national tool for tracking and reporting on our overall well-being, on the things that matter to Canadians. The Index provides a snapshot of our country’s progress – or lack of it.”

The CIW covers 64 indicators in eight areas of life in Canada: living standards, healthy populations, community vitality, education, time use, democratic engagement, leisure and culture, and the environment. These areas were chosen based on the values of Canadians, through an in-depth public consultation process across Canada.

The CIW is rather unique in that it is a citizen-driven rather than government-driven project. As of April 2011, the CIW released the last in its series of eight domain reports, thus completing the development phase of the CIW.

The Index will promote discussion about the types of policies, programs, and activities that can move us closer and faster toward achieving wellbeing. In fact, it can be a useful tool for governments of all levels, here and around the world. Dr. Bryan Smale, CIW Director and University of Waterloo professor says “I look forward to sharing our methodology with other countries. It is through collaborative efforts that we will collectively advance the cause to find better ways to measure societal progress.”

For the complete technical paper on the CIW composite, report highlights, see infographic and video, [1].


The CIW Network’s goals are to:

  • Oversee the development and implementation of the CIW that is reflective of Canadian society and in which regional and cultural differences are reflected, nurtured and integrated into the fabric of the work.
  • Ensure the ongoing and regular reporting of the CIW through a Communication and Public Engagement Strategy.
  • Ensure leading-edge and ongoing research and development of the CIW including further refinement of common standards, pilot testing of sub-indices, collection and compilation of data for health, social, economic, and environmental variables and trends.
  • Promote better data collection by identifying gaps in knowledge relevant to measuring well-being.
  • Increase and expand the CIW Network with influential leaders and policy makers so that the CIW has an ongoing impact on policy decisions.
  • Contribute to societal understanding (statistical literacy) and use of indicators (citizen literacy and engagement).
  • Contribute to a measuring well-being movement that will be of benefit to international partners and initiatives.

See Also

External links


Other Papers and Publications

  • CIW Methodology report– detailed methodological report which actually refers to the European Learning Index, but was replicated off of Canada’s index and uses the same methodology.


All background information about the Canadian Index of Wellbeing can be found at [2].