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What is Vital Signs?

Hamilton’s Vital Signs checks the pulse of our city. Under the guidance of a panel of community experts, it curates data into 10 key areas of community life into research you can read, providing an insight into Hamilton’s overall vitality and identifying significant trends and issues that matter to all of us.

Hamilton’s Vital Signs is a resource to help us understand our city over time; the more we understand, the better our effort to help it thrive.

This report is the latest in our Vital Signs series, and like each edition it points to existing gaps in quality of life among Hamiltonians,– but now with a harsh focus on how the pandemic has widened those gaps. It shows starkly that income, employment conditions, education, locality, race and gender ultimately correlate with rates of COVID-19. 

Certainly the pandemic is taking an unequal toll, but we must confront the difficult truth that COVID-19 did not create these systemic injustices, and its ultimate conclusion will not end them. Together we must continue the hard work against inequity and learn from the pandemic’s lessons.  

What can you do? While collective action necessarily looks different in these unusual times, we urge you to dig deeper into the issues and their root causes; to share your constructive thoughts and ideas through virtual discussions and to use your voice for an equitable Hamilton.

Inequities will not disappear with the pandemic; but when COVID-19 is finally under control let us maintain the urgency to act.

What the Findings Show


From the biggest annual job loss on record, drastic changes in the way children learn, how we work and receive health care, patterns of immigration, and devastated arts, entertainment, and food sectors, this past year has been unmatched in the pace and scale of change Hamiltonians have experienced.

What the Findings Show


Racialized groups and people of colour have not only experienced much higher COVID-19 rates and lower vaccination rates, but also higher unemployment and likelihood of working in one of the hardest-hit economic sectors. People of colour also reported feeling less safe and were the most common targets of harassment and hate crimes.

What the Findings Show


During the initial lockdown, seniors in long-term care homes suffered among the most visibly, however, isolation has resulted in poorer mental health across all age groups, especially youth. It also contributed to increased risks in families where there is violence.

What the Findings Show


The federal Canada Emergency Response Benefits increased disposable income for the poorest 20% of Hamiltonians and decreased income inequality generally. Although temporary, it decreased the number of people relying on social assistance. 

What the Findings Show


Last July was the hottest on record, underlining concerns about climate change. Much-anticipated air pollution reductions from decreased travel and work did not materialize. The ownership and rental housing market had record year-over-year price increases. The number of homicides and the number of opioid overdoses and deaths were worryingly high.

Arts and Culture

The pandemic has hit arts and culture hard, especially those relying primarily on in-person attendance. The broader cultural sector, including film and media, fared somewhat better.


Social isolation has increased dramatically, while immigration numbers and police-reported hate crimes decreased.

Economy and work

The pandemic’s effect on nearly all workers and sectors has been dramatic. Women, young adults, racialized and Indigenous workers experienced the most profound impact.


Air pollution measures and waste diversion rates remained steady during the pandemic, while July temperatures were the hottest in over 60 years.

Getting around

The pandemic’s dramatic effects: fewer commuters and public transit use, and a renewed focus on alternatives like cycling.

Health and well-being

Health care delivery shifted from in-office to virtual visits, self-reported mental health declined, and opioid overdose and deaths remained at historically high levels.


Average home sale prices and rents continued to increase rapidly, while the pandemic led to significant challenges for people seeking emergency shelter.


One-quarter of elementary students enrolled in virtual-only learning. University enrollment increased, while the number of students in junior and senior kindergarten, secondary school co-op placements, and college programs fell.

Low income

COVID-19 rates were higher in neighbourhoods with higher rates of poverty and among residents who are visible minorities. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was a major factor in closing the gap between the richest and poorest Canadians.


Most types of police-reported crime fell during the pandemic, but domestic violence and reports of harassment and discrimination increased.
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