More bored than entertained; busy but scarcely involved with social networks, which they consider as fun as gardening; and ready to “have fun” on Tuesdays rather than Saturdays – this is the image captured by PHD Italy’s recently commissioned research project ‘Italians and fun’.

How much and how often do Italians have fun? Which of the activities carried out during the day affect their level of fun, and to what extent? What is the relationship between technology use and fun? These are just some of the questions that PHD Italy’s research wanted to answer with the help of economist and writer Luciano Canova, author of the essay ‘Il metro della felicità’ (‘The measure of happiness’).

The “fun index”:
The research uses a factorial and econometric analysis based on a series of variables relating to the activities carried out during the day: from work to leisure, through food, mobility and the use of digital platforms. With regard to the over 50 variables, which constitute a sort of map of Italians’ daily habits, the sample of over 3,000 respondents between the ages of 18 and 64 were asked to define emotionally, on a scale from 0 to 6, the feeling of boredom, indifference or fun felt in every single activity. In the wake of the data collected, the research firstly constructed an entertainment indicator, a “fun index”, classified on three levels:

  1. Nonmipassa (I get bored): lower level of fun
  2. Tranqui (easy): average level of fun
  3. Top (I have fun): highest level of fun

According to the results obtained, more than half of Italians (57% of the sample) have an unpleasant life and therefore belong to the Nonmipassa level, followed by 31% belonging to Tranqui, who have an average level of fun, and 12% belonging to the Top level. Percentages that remain practically unchanged between men and women, with the percentage of nonmipassa (I get bored) women slightly higher than that of men: 59% against 55% (compared to 57% of the average of the total sample).

Based on age, however, 45- to 54-year-olds have the highest incidence of the Top level: 28%, compared to 24% of 34- to 44-year-olds, 22% of 55- to 64-year-olds, 13% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 13% of 25- to 34-year-olds.

Better on Tuesdays than on Saturdays! What makes Italian days more or less fun:
Surprisingly, the day of the week on which Italians have the most fun is Tuesday, a figure that can be read as a post-Monday after effect or as a consequence of another piece of research evidence: interviewees engage in sex more on Tuesday than any other day. Analysing in detail the activities, or habits, which have the greatest impact on the level of entertainment are: social relations, happy hour, online shopping, food delivery, sex, ride-sharing and using video or audio streaming platforms like Netflix and Spotify. It is interesting to note that technology, in general, plays the role of “accelerator” of entertainment: food ordered through digital platforms transforms eating at home from boring to fun; online shopping is three times more fun than physical shopping; online shopping is almost twice the fun of shopping at the supermarket; and ride-sharing exceeds not only public transport, but also riding motorcycles and bicycles. In contrast, the use of social networks, which does not seem to significantly impact levels of entertainment, sees Facebook and Instagram ranking as funny as gardening and Twitter just a little more. And if we consider messaging applications, WhatsApp even has a negative effect on entertainment levels. Data, it seems, is indicating that social media has become a routine.

Better get married than stay single! Probability of having fun:
Through econometric analysis, the research has estimated the likelihood of having fun based on the variation of the characteristics or the habits of the components of the sample. Men, the researched showed, are 4% less likely to belong to the Nonmipassa category; for men, the probability of belonging to levels 2 and 3 (Tranqui and Top) is 2 percentage points higher than women. Age, on the other hand, has a negligible impact, almost irrelevant and, in any case, opposed to what is commonly believed: with increasing age, at least up to 50 years and beyond, you are more likely to have fun. Another surprise is the difference between married and single people: 58% of those who register the highest level of entertainment are married, more than double compared to singles, who stay at 20%. Even the number of family members affects the level of fun in one’s life: living in a large family increases the likelihood of having fun.

Easily understood is the correlation between work and fun – time dedicated to work reduces the probability of having fun: dedicating 10% more of the day to work lands you in Nonmipassa. The same goes for the level of income: belonging to the income brackets between €1,000 and €2,000 per month increases the probability of returning to the lowest level of entertainment by a good 12 percentage points compared to the highest income brackets.

Life in big cities is not synonymous with a fun life: in small towns, defined as under 50,000 inhabitants, the probability of having fun is increasing and in the very small ones (under 5,000 inhabitants) the probability of being part of the Nonmipassa group decreases by 9 percentage points. And the South of Italy “enjoys it” much more than the North or Central, with a probability of ending up at the lowest level of entertainment by as much as 10 percentage points: 51% of those interviewed at the highest level of fun are living in the South, against 32% in the North and 17% in Central. It is therefore easy to see how the comparison between Rome and Milan, in terms of fun, ends in favour of the capital, except for physical shopping and supermarket shopping, two activities that are more engaging in Milan.

The “geek” variable:
Being a “geek” – which is, in this scenario, defined as possessing different technological devices and dedicating time to them – increases the probability of having fun by 5 percentage points. If you look at the dominant tech device of the moment, the voice assistant, the figure reaches 6%. The “home assistant” variable has the greatest weight, along with smartwatches, trackers and VR viewers; consoles, tablets and smart TVs follow. As for entertainment, streaming platforms outweigh more traditional subscriptions. It is also interesting to note that for the hyperconnected and tech-savvy individuals, the likelihood of having more fun increases with time spent on mobility: it is possible that the use of digital devices is facilitated by the time spent on transport.

Happiness and “fun index“:
The research also investigated the relationship between fun and happiness, understood as subjective well-being, detecting a correlation between the “fun index” and indication of general satisfaction equal to 0.4, a value far from the perfect correlation which is equal to 1. This means that the two dimensions, entertainment and subjective perception of happiness, are associated and move in the same direction, but do not overlap, because they do not capture the same thing. They are overlapping, in practice, at 40% and not at 100%. This is why the most fun day of the week, Tuesday, does not correspond to that perceived as the happiest, which turns out to be Thursday: on Tuesday Italians seek fun to compensate for the negative effect of the beginning of the week of Monday, while on Thursday they begin to enjoy the expectation of the weekend.

Fun is serious! PHD Italy’s strategic vision:
Alessandro Lacovara, Managing Director of PHD Italy, commented: “We wanted to investigate the fun dimension with a rigorous methodology because entertainment today is one of the most powerful levers in the hands of brands, agencies, content creators, administrators, even politicians, to engage consumers, users and citizens. We live in a context in which the success or failure of communication is measured along the thin border that separates the so-called attention-based economy from that of distraction. This is why the theme of entertainment has become strategic for us: effectiveness is no longer tied to a single form of media, but to the context and state of mind in which people find themselves when they are engaged. The evidence of research on technology and entertainment also shows that since the hi-tech era, we have entered the era of fun-tech: technology, when introduced, acts as a fun accelerator, but we must not forget that it has a very high obsolescence rate. The challenge, therefore, is to succeed in developing the relationship with the consumer.”