Social isolation is a problem for many

Early results from 9,000 respondents of an online survey titled "My Health My Community" shows 15 per cent are suffering from some form of social isolation in Metro Vancouver, contributing to stress in their lives.

The results include residents of the Tri-Cities, although the exact breakdown by region has yet to be done.

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As the survey continues, SHARE CEO Martin Wyant isn't surprised by the early results.

"It's something we're talking about all the time as a community-based organization," he told the Tri-Cities NOW. "With densification, what you find is we're missing those public spaces, we're missing those opportunities in those big buildings for people to meet each other."

Wyant also suspects social isolation has to do with work schedules and commuting to and from the workplace.

"Most of us don't live in the same community where we work," he said. "By the time we get home, we got kids, we got things to do. We're tired and we don't have a lot of energy left, and that's another complicating factor."

More than 40 per cent of those surveyed stated they felt a weak sense of belonging to a community.

"A stronger sense of community belonging is associated with more positive lifestyle behaviours such as regular physical activity, healthy eating and abstaining from smoking," states a media release from Fraser Health.

There's also a link between social isolation and recent immigrants, with roughly 50 per cent who landed less than five years ago reporting feelings of isolation.

"Newcomers are usually separated from their traditional networks," SUCCESS CEO Queenie Choo said in the press release. "Isolation prevents them from fully participating in the community. That is why organizations such as ours play an important role in helping new and established Canadians overcome social and cultural barriers so that they can better integrate into Canadian society."

Although immigrants and Canadian-born residents face similar feelings of isolation, Wyant says there are many things people can do to get more involved and connect.

"One of the easiest ways into a community is saying, 'I'm here, I want to meet people, what can I do? I can volunteer,'" he said. "That's a great way to get connected. When you go and get involved with people who have a common purpose, you're more likely to get involved and improve your life and make a difference in your neighbourhood."

SHARE and SUCCESS offer a variety of community-based programs designed to integrate people into their local area.

Both organizations also offer a wide variety of programs specifically for immigrants trying to join the community.

The "My Health My Community" survey was created in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and the UBC Faculty of Medicine's eHealth Strategy Office.

The survey asks people about their health, lifestyle choices, community involvement and neighbourhood characteristics, in an attempt to help municipalities and health authorities develop policies and programs to help residents.

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