Leo Burnett Canada’s 2024 The HumanKind™ Study reveals Canadians are still struggling, but ready for change

Canadians feel lonely, fed up and anxious and are looking for decisive leadership on finance and housing, AI, social media and more

Toronto, Ontario, March 6th, 2024 – Amid ongoing social and economic struggles, Canadians are still feeling the sting of the current climate. But key data signals indicate they feel readier than ever for action and change, according to Leo Burnett Canada’s 2024 The HumanKind Study – a national annual survey of 4,000+ Canadians that provides a comprehensive overview of what keeps them up at night and how companies can help.

“It’s still a very tough time for Canadians, make no mistake. But in contrast to the previous two study editions, we saw a key uptick in people’s readiness and desire for change amid their dissatisfaction,” said Ben Tarr, President of Leo Burnett Group Canada.

This year’s study found Canadians are more willing to embrace change, with half (49%) expressing a reduced fear of the unknown, down 14 points from a year ago. Only 38% of Canadians worry the Earth is past saving compared with 61% last year, underscoring a renewed sense of hope, and more than half (53%) are feeling more content than a year ago, up 7 points. 

“Canadians are actively seeking solutions to combat major global issues like loneliness, housing, AI and more, and they want decisive leadership,” Tarr added. “This is where brands can and should step in.” 

Loneliness on the rise

Canadians are feeling lonelier despite being ‘back to normal’ post-pandemic. Most Canadians report experiencing loneliness at least sometimes (57%), and one in four say they feel lonely frequently or always. This sentiment is starkly highest among Gen Z and Millennials (77% and 72%). 

All generations see significant limitations in digital connections and yearn for genuine human interaction. They believe social media bears significant responsibility for loneliness and societal divisiveness, with 66% of Canadians saying social media is making people more divided and 52% viewing screens and devices as crutches to avoid in-person interactions. 

“Companies can play an active role in combating loneliness,” said Tahir Ahmad, Chief Strategy Office, Leo Burnett Canada. “From retailers using their spaces to bring people together for in-person events to companies using their platform and influence to raise awareness of loneliness and take steps to combat it, brands have ways to make a difference."

Cost of living crisis continues

With no shortage of talk about inflation and a potential recession, Canadians remain anxious about the economy. More than a third (34%) say they’re financially hanging on by the skin of their teeth (61% of Gen Z). More than three-quarters (77%) believe even hard-working Canadians can’t afford rent or food, no matter how hard they try. Nearly half of all Canadians (47%, and 60% of Gen Z), are spending so much on essential items that they have very little left to spend on things and experiences that bring them joy.

A high percentage of Canadians, including 45% of Gen Z and 44% of Millennials, believe they might have to move away from their loved ones to save money.

Above all, Canadians don’t want to feel alone in their fight.

“They are experiencing palpable anxiety and widespread concerns about economic stability – and it’s spreading across almost all aspects of their lives, including their performance at work,” said Ahmad. “Brands can explore greater price transparency, value-led storytelling and even approaches like subscription services or comparison tools.”

AI concerns abound 

Canadians are highly cautious of AI. More than half of Canadians (51%) believe AI will hurt humanity more than it will help, while 44% expressed concern that AI exhibits bias that particularly affects marginalized populations.

Despite having fun playing with new tools like DALL-E, 64% worry AI is progressing too quickly without enough care for the risks and 65% of young Canadians say corporations are going to use AI to exploit and manipulate people. Overall, almost three quarters of Canadians (72%) say social media has become a wasteland of misinformation.

“Despite having very real reservations, Canadians tell us they are still willing to engage with corporate AI applications,” Ahmad said. “In exchange, Canadians have to see a clear personal benefit from engaging with AI such as a better user experience, a lower price or faster, more accurate service.”

About Leo Burnett Canada’s The HumanKind Study

Now in its third year, the Leo Burnett Canada’s The HumanKind Study is a leading annual national study providing uniquely Canadian insight on the issues and topics that matter most and their expectations of businesses. It encompasses a wide array of themes such as housing, healthcare, finance, technology, and many more. 

The research, produced by Leo Burnett Canada in partnership with Maru/Blue, consisted of both qualitative and quantitative analysis and interviews of 4,127 Canadians aged 18+ in all provinces between June and October of 2023. For further insights and to read the full 2024 report, please visit leoburnett.ca/humankind2024.


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