New Vital Signs report shows intersection of financial stress and mental health

As the year comes to a close, many of us are finishing up at work and getting ready to start our seasonal holiday traditions and celebrations. Yet this year we know that many will need to downsize their celebrations due to the consistent increase in the cost of – well, everything!

The newly released Vital Signs report, presented by the Community Foundation North Okanagan (CFNO), has extensive data covering the Income Gap in the North Okanagan. This report shows us that many people will be struggling to celebrate this holiday season, and many will be making sacrifices or going without. An example from the report shows half of all single parents in the North Okanagan are making an income of less than $63,000, compared to half of the couples-with-children that are making an income of over $112,000.

Local voices and opinions are captured on every page of the Vital Signs report, they were sourced from our community survey conducted in May 2023. One survey respondent commented that, “The cost of living has increased way beyond my wage. This effects my physical and mental health.”

The intersection of financial stress and the decline of physical and mental health in the North Okanagan has shown up in our Vital Signs data. In Vernon, 32.5 per cent reported experiencing depression, compared to a provincial rate of 26.4 per cent. The rate of heavy drinking in the Okanagan is 23 per cent, which is five percentage points higher than the 18 per cent reported across British Columbia. In the North Okanagan, 14 per cent of people smoke, compared to the provincial average of 11 per cent.

While the cost of housing impacts both owners and renters, renters are being hit harder. Households spending 30 per cent or more of their income on shelter are considered insecurely housed. In the North Okanagan, 14.5 per cent of owner-occupied households spend 30 per cent or more, while 40.2 per cent of renter households spend 30 per cent or more. With the cost to purchase a home increasing 56.3 per cent just since 2019, will these renters ever be able to save enough for a down payment?

In our community survey, many comments about housing applauded the increasing number of low-income housing units, but highlighted the lack of affordable housing options for middle-income people. We heard this comment from a survey respondent, “I am a highly educated single, 34-year-old professional with an income above $80K. The only affordable housing option in the Okanagan is to continue to live with family. Who has $1,800 to $2,600 a month to spend on housing?”

“The issues that seemed pressing after the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, including affordable housing, income inequality, a changing climate, and community safety, now feel intractable. The enormity of the intervention needed is overwhelming,” said Leanne Hammond, executive director of CFNO. “Yet our strength lies in our togetherness. Our problems cease to be intractable when we’re working together towards something we care about. We invite you to join us in moving from a shared understanding to collective action.”

“We proudly participate in the national Vital Signs program because we want residents of the Okanagan to connect over a shared understanding of the trends and changes affecting the quality of life in our region. Programs such as Vital Signs, with its local data and community-driven knowledge, help us make bolder and better decisions that ensure everyone has the support and opportunity to flourish in the Okanagan.”

Read the Vital Signs Report Now:

READ the Vital Signs report now:

At this time of year many of us feel compelled to give back to the community, to pass along kindness and joy to our neighbours. CFNO understands the importance of coming together to address our community’s most pressing needs. We have compiled a short list of gift ideas that have the most impact directly on our local community:

  • Better Together Fund – Contributions help us respond to unpredictable crises or direct emergency funding.
  • The Good Food Box – The Helping Kids, Helping Schools initiative offers access to fresh produce and food to students living and learning in the North Okanagan. *This initiative currently has a donation matching incentive – you donate $1 and it’s matched by two organizations. A $1 donation = $3.
  • Greater Vernon Cultural Centre – Your donation will not only help to construct a building – it will be an investment in our community’s art and heritage, our youth, our downtown, and our local economy.
  • Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) – Support OKIB’s programs and services! Your donation will go towards the revitalization of sqilxʷ culture and nsqilxʷcen language.

If you have any questions about making a donation please contact Leanne Hammond at

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