Social Capital

Sense of community

Feeling like one belongs and is accepted in meaningful social groups has been linked to wellbeing and health-related outcomes [7,8]. Sense of community is generally seen as a desirable outcome, whereby community members feel a sense of belonging and commitment, and a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group [9,10]. In this context, community is ‘relational’, as it is mostly concerned with quality and characteristics of human relationships, not the geographical location (for example neighbourhood, town, city) [11]. Sense of community embraces a number of different elements including: community spirit or membership, influence, reinforcement, emotional safety, community boundaries, sense of belonging, trust, shared emotional connections, and quality interactions [9,12]. These elements are considered to act together to strengthen the social fabric, and improve community wellbeing and health outcomes [7-9].

This indicator presents the proportion of those aged 18 years and over agreeing or strongly agreeing they feel a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood, as reported in the Canterbury Wellbeing Survey.

The figure shows that in the year following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, over half of respondents in greater Christchurch (54.5%) agreed or strongly agreed that they felt a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood. However, there is a pattern of declining sense of community since September 2012. In 2014, the proportion feeling a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood (agree or strongly agree) dipped below 50 percent and the current result (49.6%, 2018) is statistically significantly lower than that for 2012. The overall downward trend in this proportion is also statistically significant. Note that no pre-earthquake data are available to act as a benchmark.

The figure shows that in 2018, the proportion of European respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing they feel a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood (50.4%) is statistically significantly higher than that for Pacific/Asian/Indian respondents (37.2%) but is not significantly different from Māori respondents (44.1%). This general pattern applies to the last three time-points (09/2016, 06/2017, and 05/2018). However, there is noticeable variability in the results for Māori and Pacific/Asian/Indian respondents due to smaller absolute numbers in the sample. These smaller numbers contribute to wider confidence intervals and make it difficult to discern differences for Māori and Pacific/Asian/Indian respondents.

Across the time-series, younger respondents’ sense of community is notably different from older respondents’ sense of community (such as lower, and in sharper decline). In 2018, 62.2 percent of respondents from the 65+ years age group indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that they felt a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood, compared with only 26.9 percent of 18 to 24 year-old respondents. This may reflect actual relational differences within neighbourhoods by different age groups, for example as young people may be more transient and less likely to have neighbourhood attachments, such as owning a home or having children attend a local school. It may also reflect different understandings of the question (such as younger respondents may have different understandings of ‘communities’ and ‘neighbourhoods’), or a combination of both of these aspects.

The figure shows a pattern of generally similar levels of sense of community (proportion agreeing or strongly agreeing that they feel a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood) for female respondents and male respondents in greater Christchurch, over the period 2012 to 2018 (more so, since late 2015).

The figure shows a pattern of generally similar levels of sense of community (proportion of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that they feel a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood) across the annual household income groups $30,000–$60,000; $60,000–$100,000; and $100,000+; in greater Christchurch, over the period 2012 to 2018. The exception is the lowest income group. The <$30,000 income group appears to have experienced a boost in sense of community (possibly an earthquake effect) from early 2013 to late 2014. However, this boost now appears to have dropped away, with sense of community for the <$30,000 group being statistically significantly lower compared with the $100,000+ group for three of the last five time-points.

The figure shows that the level of sense of community (proportion of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that they feel a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood) for those respondents with a long-term health condition or disability was not significantly different from the proportion for those without, at the majority of time-points. The proportion for those with a long-term health condition or disability was significantly lower at the most recent time-point (43.9%, compared to 51.2% for those without a long-term health condition or disability) as well as in April 2014 and September 2016.

Data Sources

Source: Canterbury District Health Board.
Survey/data set: Canterbury Wellbeing Survey to 2018. Access publicly available data from the Community and Public Health (Canterbury DHB) website www.cph.co.nz/your-health/wellbeing-survey/
Source data frequency: Annually.

View technical notes and data tables for this indicator.

Updated: 21/11/2018