When 300,000 Torontonians say they have no one: Second Toronto Social Capital Study shows who's disconnected and why that matters to city's health



Tuesday, November 22, 2022 (Toronto, ON) -- Today Toronto Foundation and the Environics Institute, along with 15 partners, released the findings of the 2022 Toronto Social Capital Study, the second-ever and most in-depth look at social capital in the city. This includes the study of Torontonians’ wellbeing based on their social networks, social trust, civic engagement and neighbourhood support.    

"This survey of over 4,000 Torontonians, documents the impact of the pandemic has had on city residents, leaving us less connected to one another and to the community,” says Andrew Parkin, executive director, Environics Institute. “But the news is not all bad. Most of us have family and friends to rely on, feel our neighbourhoods are safe, find our neighbours helpful, have confidence in local institutions, and participate in community activities. Our social networks are not less diverse than they were, and we generally trust each other, even those with different political views or different ethnic backgrounds.” 

“Four years later, this second and most in-depth study shows the city’s social fabric remains strong overall, while also flagging our vulnerabilities and where to invest,” says Sharon Avery, president and CEO, Toronto Foundation. “While our connections are not as strong as they used to be, COVID has not driven us further apart.”


  • Young people, particularly women, have the least optimistic outlooks and report the poorest mental health, but young Torontonians are also the most likely to volunteer. 
  • Torontonians with disabilities have lower life satisfaction and wellbeing, but those reporting disabilities that only sometimes limit their activities recorded higher rates of volunteering and interest in politics. 
  • Black residents have lower than average levels of social trust, experienced some of the biggest drops in community group participation and, are among those most likely to face income and food insecurity. Despite these realities, they also show the highest levels of agency, meaning they are much more likely to say that people working together can make a big difference in their communities.
  • LGBTQ2S+ residents are also more likely to face economic insecurity, have lower social trust and are less confident that local institutions will be there to support them—but also have higher rates of civic engagement, including volunteerism.  
  • Unemployed Torontonians are more likely to consistently report low social capital. They have fewer connections to support them, lower social trust, and poorer wellbeing (including food insecurity). There are few bright spots for these Torontonians. 
  • Income is the great dividing line in the city, and when it intersects with other factors can contribute to very low levels of social capital and significant vulnerability in the face of crisis. 

Across the four pillars of social capital, civic engagement has dropped the most—but it’s the biggest driver of how quickly we’ll rebound. 

  • Toronto has lost 300,000 donors and 300,000 volunteers based on a 12% drop in donation and volunteer rates. That translates to a loss of $180 million in donations and 36 million volunteer hours, based on average amounts for giving and volunteering. 
  • Those best positioned to donate (people earning $100k or more) recorded the biggest drop in donations.  
  • We participate less in politics and local groups, and are less certain that working together will make a big difference in solving problems in our communities. 
  • Facing tighter social networks of family and friends, vulnerable residents needing support often turn to smaller community organizations. More volunteers and donations are often the difference between an organization’s ability to serve community needs or not.  

Social capital is correlated with other measures of wellbeing. Wellbeing and social capital improve as both age and socio-economic status increase, which is why our survey includes questions about mental and physical health as well as food security. 

  • Only 25% of Torontonians say they always have something to look forward to (down from 40% in 2018), and city residents are almost twice as likely (as they were in 2018) to say their mental health is fair or poor—with worse figures for younger and lower income residents. 
  • Notably 40% of residents between the ages of 25 to 29 report they were food insecure, which is double the rate across other age categories (20%). 

Plenty of Torontonians have solid social capital. We’re now asking them to use it. For good. Because it matters a lot.  Chances are: The more civically engaged you are, the more likely you’ll be more satisfied, have broader social circles and be better connected. We all tend to give more when we get involved. Neighbourhood organizations are often the only support for some of our city’s most vulnerable, but cannot continue to meet rising demands with lower donations and volunteer rates. While we’re not as well connected as we were, we have the social capital to exponentially strengthen and expand networks, support and trust. For all of us with strong social capital: It’s time to show up for this city. Reconnect with family and friends, volunteer and donate more.  

About the Toronto Social Capital Study and its partners
Our first study, conducted in 2018, defined the core elements of social capital and benchmarked key indicators of wellbeing. Back then we were a city with solid social networks, high levels of trust, neighbourhood support, and engagement with community. What emerged is that social capital varies significantly based on demographic realities. This project’s 17-member local partnership is proof of collective investment and impact on social capital.

Lead Partners Collaborating Partners
Toronto Foundation Atkinson Foundation
Environics Institute – Research Lead Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
Metcalf Foundation CivicAction
MLSE Foundation Counselling Foundation of Canada
Northcrest Developments Crosswalk Communities
Ontario Trillium Foundation Laidlaw Foundation
TAS Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy
United Way Greater Toronto
Wellesley Institute
YMCA of Greater Toronto

National Survey Partner

Community Foundations of Canada

About Toronto Foundation

Established in 1981, Toronto Foundation is one of over 200 Community Foundations in Canada. We pool philanthropic dollars and facilitate charitable donations for maximum community impact. Our individual, family and organizational funds number just over 875 and we administer close to $800 million in assets. Through strategic granting, thought leadership and convening, we engage in city building, mobilizing people and resources to increase the quality of life in Toronto.

Visit for the report and follow @TorontoFdn and #TOSocialCapital

About Environics Institute

The Environics Institute for Survey Research was established by Michael Adams in 2006 with a mandate to conduct in-depth public opinion and social research on the issues shaping Canada’s future. It is through such research that Canadians can better understand themselves and their changing society.

Visit for disaggregated data and follow @Environics_Insti


Contact Fennella Bruce | | 647.290.7610



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