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The cultural dimension is positively linked to the growth of per capita income. The choices made by citizens to keep their knowledge up-to-date and efficient, the use of various events and entertainments as well as the practice of physical activity are some of the dimensions that contribute to determining the social capital of a country. Beyond exclusively economic factors, the analysis of citizens' behaviours in the cultural sphere represents an essential contribution in the attempt to measure the personal well-being and social cohesion.
Households' expenditure on cultural consumption represented one of the key indicators identified by the European Union to evaluate policies for the development of living conditions and welfare in the long term. In 2018, Italian households spent on average 6.7% of the total final consumption expenditure on recreation and culture.
In 2019, the share of book readers remained substantially stable at 40%. Among these, 44.3% read up to three books a year, while the "strong readers" (12 or more books read in a year) were 15.6%. Reading books was mainly the prerogative of young people (in the age group between 11 and 19) and of women.
In 2018, 39.8% of printed books were also distributed in e-book format, but only 9.5% of internet users used the network to access books in digital format. Young people between 18 and 19 years old were the main users (20.9%).
In 2019, the reduction in the share of printed newspapers readers continued. Men generally read more newspapers than women and, for both sexes, the largest share of readers belongs to the adult age group, from 35 years old upwards.
Compared to 2018, the percentage of individuals reading information, newspapers and magazines on the Internet increased from 35.3% to 36.2%. The phenomenon was more widespread among men (with a difference of 6.4 percentage points compared to women) and among people in the age group between 25 and 34 years (over 52.3%).
Cultural participation in 2019 remained stable compared to the previous year: a slight increase in the frequenting of theatrical performances was recorded (20.3%), while the decrease in the frequenting of cinemas continued, even though it was less marked compared to 2018. The age groups in which the habit of frequenting cinemas recorded significant increases were those of teenagers between 15 and 17 years old and adults between 35 and 44 years old (respectively 82,2% and 57.0% went to the cinema at least once in the last 12 months).
As for sports activities in free time, in 2018, the propension was higher among males and it involved little more than a third of the population aged three years and more. Only a quarter of the population was engaged in sports on a regular basis.
The share of spending on recreation time and culture presents a significant territorial variability. In 2016, the highest value of expenditure on cultural goods and services was observed in the North-west, where it represented approximately 7.2% of the total expenditure for final consumption. In the regions of the Centre, the value was 6.6% and in the South and Islands it was 5.7%. The regions where households have spent more of the final expenditure on cultural and recreational consumption were: Piemonte (8.1%), Lombardia (7.5%), the Autonomous Province of Trento (7.5%) and Emilia-Romagna (7.5%). In Italy, between 2001 and 2016, the share decreased by 0.5 percentage points. The trend is generalized in the territorial subdivisions and in the Regions. In particular, the greatest reduction was registered in the Centre (-0,9 percentage points) that was influenced by the negative result of all the Regions of the subdivisions, particularly of Toscana and Lazio that have had a reduction of respectively 1.0 and 0.9 percentage points. However, due to the price dynamics of the recreation and culture sector, compared to that of the total consumption, the expenditure on cultural consumption, from 2001 to 2016, increased on average in real terms by 1.1%. The largest annual average increase over the period considered was in the North-west (2.0%), while the South and Islands recorded the smallest average increase (equal to 0.1%).
In 2019, the regions of the South and Islands, compared to those of the Centre and North, showed a lower propensity in the reading of books, with the exception of Sardegna that registered a higher share of readers (38.9%), compared to the
other regions of the South and Islands. There is a similar trend in the use of the Internet to read on line books or e-books: in the South and Islands, 7.8% of residents read on line books or e-books, with a difference of 2.6 percentage points compared to the regions of the Centre and North. Also in this case, Sardegna represented an exception, recording the same rates as the Centre- and North (10.4%).
In 2019, in the North, compared to other areas, the reading of newspapers involved a higher percentage of residents. Also in this case, Sardegna was an exception; in fact here the share of readers exceeded that of some northern regions, as well as the share of strong readers (5 or more times a week).
In 2019, the use of the internet to read newspapers and on line magazines was more widespread in the North-east (41%), compared to the South and Islands (30.6%). Friuli-Venezia Giulia (42.6%) and Emilia-Romagna (42%) stood out at the top of the ranking, while Calabria (28.2%), Sicilia (29.2%) and Puglia (29.5%) seemed to be the regions with the least diffusion of this phenomenon. Also in this case, Sardegna had values which were similar to those of the Central Regions.
In 2019, residents in the Centre and North, compared to those living in the South and Islands, enjoyed more shows or entertainment outside their home. The gap narrows if we consider the participation in sport events and frequenting places where it is possible to dance, while it is more marked for visits to archaeological sites and monuments. However, compared to 2018, the territorial gap in cultural participation is reduced due to a generalized increase in the South and Islands.
As for sports during free time, in 2018 the highest propensity was recorded in the Centre and North (28.9%) and it was particularly high in Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol (44.5%). The lowest propensity, instead, was found in the South and Islands (19.7%), which showed the highest share of sedentary people.
In 2018, the share of Italian household expenditure destined to cultural consumption (6.7%) was significantly lower than the average of the EU countries (9.1%). The countries positioned in the lower part of the European ranking, which had a lower percentage share of expenditure on cultural consumption compared to Italy were: Greece, Portugal, Romania, Ireland, Luxembourg and Cyprus. At the opposite, there was a large number of countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Latvia and Austria whose expenditure on cultural consumption exceeded 10%.
In 2018, in the EU, an average of 63% of the population aged between 16 and 74 read information, newspapers and magazines on the Internet. The gap among European countries was wide. For Italy, the share was 44% and it was penultimate in the European ranking despite an increase of 5 percentage points compared to the previous year, while for Denmark, first in the ranking, the percentage was 82%.