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 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 mostly concerned with quality and characteristics of human relationships, rather than 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. A pattern of declining sense of community followed, and the proportion feeling a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood (agree or strongly agree) dipped below 50 percent in 2014. The current result (47.7%, 2019) is statistically significantly lower than that for 2012 and the overall downward trend in this proportion is statistically significant. However, the proportion feeling a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood (agree or strongly agree) appears to have plateaued since March 2014 and has been fluctuating between 46 percent and 50 percent in recent years. Note that no pre-earthquake data are available to act as a benchmark.

The figure shows that Selwyn District has generally had the highest proportion of respondents reporting a sense of community (agreeing or strongly agreeing they feel a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood) over the time series. Christchurch City (45.8%) continues to have the smallest proportion of respondents reporting a sense of community; statistically significantly lower than both Selwyn District (53.5%) and Waimakariri District (56.5%) in 2019. Over the time-series, Christchurch City appears to show the greatest decline in sense of community.

The figure shows that in 2019, the proportion of European respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing they feel a sense of community with others in their neighbourhood (48.2%) is statistically similar to that for both Pacific/Asian/Indian respondents (43.4%) and Māori respondents (48.1%), with all three confidence intervals overlapping. This general pattern of convergence is different from 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 (that is, lower, and in sharper decline). In 2019, 61.7 percent of respondents from the 75+ 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 28.5 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 (for example, 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 2019 (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 $30,001 to $60,000; $60,001 to $100,000; and $100,000+; in greater Christchurch, over the period 2012 to 2019. The exception is the lowest income group. The <$30,000 income group appears to have experienced a transient boost in sense of community (possibly an earthquake effect) from early 2013 to late 2014. Sense of community for the <$30,000 group was statistically similar to the higher income groups for the last three 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 presented. However, the proportion for those with a long-term health condition or disability was significantly lower at the most recent time-point (41.5%, compared to 49.7% for those without a long-term health condition or disability) as well as in April 2014, September 2016, and May 2018, and there appears to be an emerging pattern of divergence between the two groups, over the last four to five years.

Data Sources

Source: Canterbury District Health Board.
Survey/data set: Canterbury Wellbeing Survey to 2019. 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: 26/11/2019