An independent Canadian think-tank has announced plans for a new comparative index, which its proponents say will provide Canadians with a more in-depth picture of the factors that affect their quality of life.

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing will use eight areas of life -- health, education, standard of living and quality of environment among them -- to quantify just how well Canadians are living.

More specifically, it is being touted as a way of measuring "whether our quality of life and wellbeing is going up or down," says Roy Romanow, the chair of the University of Waterloo-affiliated Institute of Wellbeing, which will put together the index.

According to the former Saskatchewan premier, measuring quality of life isn't an easy feat.

"The reality is that there aren't as many measures as we might think that there might be," Romanow said during an appearance on CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday.

Most existing measures have relied heavily on the GDP as a measure of quality of life, Romanow said.

"The object here is to figure out whether or not we're doing better or not so well in our health and our quality of life," he said.

"The GDP just measures goods and services produced, it tells us nothing about our environment, it tells us nothing about our quality of life and the like."

The new index will provide the public and politicians with a "more rich" picture of the factors that affect Canadians' quality of life, Romanow said.

It will be compiled from data that is collected by Statistics Canada, the CIBC employment quality index and other sources.

The Institute of Wellbeing issued its first report Wednesday, detailing three of the eight areas of life that will be part of the eventual index.

Wednesday's report looked at data from 1981 to 2008 and found that Canadians had made major gains in average real net worth -- 73.3 per cent on a per capita basis and 51.7 per cent on a household basis -- over the time period.

Additionally, the poverty rate was 9.2 per cent in 2007, as opposed to 16 per cent as of 1996.

But Andrew Sharpe, co-author of the living standards component of the report, said there are concerns Canadians may be on the cusp of losing some of these gains.

"All this progress we've made through public policy and economic growth, we're going to unwind much of that with the next years to come because of this recession," Sharpe told The Canadian Press.

In the health portion of the report, the Institute of Wellbeing said that that Canadians generally fared well in terms of life expectancy, with the projected lifespan for citizen born in 2005 was 80.4 years.

In the community vitality section of the report, Canadians were found to be volunteering more than in the past, but fewer citizens reported having six or more close friends.

Further reports are expected from the Institute of Wellbeing later this year and in 2010, when researchers hope to have worked out the exact form of the new index.

Romanow told The Canadian Press that the institute is being guided by experts who have experience with the type of data being used in the index.

Despite the Institute of Wellbeing's affiliation with a university, it's only a "virtual relationship," Romanow said, which gives it an academic home.

"It's a citizens' group, not owned by any government. We're non-partisan -- all we want to do is get the facts out there so that Canadians know and governments and communities respond accordingly," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press