Sense of belonging to local community in small-to-medium sized Canadian urban areas: a comparison of immigrant and Canadian-born residents
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BACKGROUND: Sense of belonging is recognized as an important determinant of psychological and physical well-being. Research in Canada has shown that sense of belonging has increased in recent years although important variations exist between regions and among certain ethnic groups. METHODS: The objective of this paper is to examine differences in sense of belonging to local community between Canadian-born and immigrant residents in three small-to-medium sized urban areas using primary data collected in: 1) Charlottetown, PEI; 2) Hamilton, Ontario, and 3) Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. A mixed method approach is used in the analysis. First, a household telephone survey (n = 1529) asked respondents to rate their sense of belonging. This data was analyzed by way of summary statistics and ordered logistic regression. Second, a series of focus groups with immigrants in the three cities included questions on belonging and well-being (n = 11). RESULTS: The research found that sense of belonging is very high in the overall sample and in the three study sites, particularly in Charlottetown, and that there are no significant differences in levels of belonging between Canadian-born and immigrant respondents. However, among immigrants, sense of belonging was significantly lower for those living in Canada for 5 years or less. Consistent with the literature, positive mental health was found to be strongly associated with a positive sense of belonging for both Canadian-born and immigrant respondents. For immigrants, positive sense of belonging was associated with full-time work and home-ownership, two factors not associated with the Canadian-born population. The paper also revealed that immigrants placed greater importance on knowing their neighbours on a first name basis and generally trusting people as determinants of a positive sense of belonging. Finally, the focus groups revealed that in addition to displaying a sense of belonging to their city of residence, immigrants also maintain strong feelings of belonging to their ethnic group. CONCLUSIONS: The paper concludes by offering several public health recommendations on how belonging can be enhanced among recent immigrants in smaller Canadian cities; these include improved coordination of services in order to contribute to a less overwhelming settlement process for immigrants.
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