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ITALY EXPLAINED

Why are Italians ranked among the ‘unhappiest in Europe’?

Despite the romantic image portrayed of Italians living 'la dolce vita', one study has ranked the country as among the unhappiest in Europe. Here's the data behind the discontent.

Why are Italians ranked among the 'unhappiest in Europe'?
Italy hasn't ranked well in the happiness scale for Europe. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Italy’s population has placed among the least content in Europe, according to a new study by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Happiness can be a woolly concept and hard to define, but the 2022 World Happiness Report has attempted to do that in a global survey of almost 150 countries.

Italy ranked 31st worldwide, faring well on a worldwide scale, but in Europe it lagged way behind some of its neighbours – who not only ranked highly in Europe but globally too. Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland took the four top spots globally.

In Europe, Italy also placed behind France, Germany, Austria, Ireland and slightly behind Spain and Romania.

Why were Italians ranked as being unhappy?

Based on scores over the period 2019-2021, the study took into account the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which may go some way to explaining Italy’s poor happiness index as it bore the brunt of the first waves of coronavirus infection in Europe in 2020.

Of course, there will be individual variations and happiness is difficult to scientifically define or measure.

Researchers used the following seven categories to assess each country’s happiness level:

  • Social support
  • Life expectancy
  • Freedom to make life choices
  • Generosity
  • GDP per capita
  • Perceptions of corruption
  • Positive and negative affects – dystopia (evaluating how much better life is in a given country in comparison to ones with bad living conditions).

“Our measurement of subjective well-being continues to rely on three main indicators: life evaluations, positive emotions, and negative emotions,” the report said.

“Happiness rankings are based on life evaluations as the more stable measure of the quality of people’s lives.”

Italy scored quite well in terms of its GDP, social support and healthy life expectancy, but respondents expressed a much lower value of freedom to make life choices compared to its European neighbours. Italians didn’t fare so well in dystopia either.

The report highlighted how Italy’s anxiety and sadness grew in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, based on social media analysis.

The Covid-19 pandemic could go some way to explaining Italy’s poor happiness ranking. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Five weeks after the outbreak of Covid, Italy showed the highest levels of anxiety globally. Levels of sadness grew too.

“On average, sadness reached its highest level three weeks after the outbreak, and remained stable for the following two weeks. The gradual increase of sadness terms occurred a while after stringency of social distancing measures increased, and remained high about two weeks later,” the report stated.

READ ALSO: Twelve statistics that show how the pandemic has hit Italy’s quality of life

Positive emotions also dropped in Italy as public health measures became stricter, the report noted.

However, throughout the turmoil, Italy ranked highly for supporting and taking care of each other – it was in fact the nationality least likely to simply take care of themselves.

Italy has consistently ranked poorly for perception of corruption: though there have been steady improvements over the past decade, it continues to rate as one of the most corrupt nations in Europe.

Despite the country’s overwhelmingly positive image abroad, Italy is in fact no stranger to poor rankings in various international comparisons on everything from corruption levels to English language proficiency.

You can find out more about those rankings below:

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ITALY EXPLAINED

13 essential articles you’ll need when moving to Italy

Whether you've just moved or are still in the planning stages, here are some of The Local's most popular and useful articles for members navigating a new life in Italy.

13 essential articles you'll need when moving to Italy
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Finding your Italian home

If you’re planning to buy, you might want to start by reading this guide to the red flags to watch out for when viewing old Italian properties, or our hard-won tips on how not to buy a house in Italy.

Looking for a rental instead? As with so many other things in Italy, the property rental market may not be what you expect. We’ve listed some of the quirks and pitfalls to look out for when apartment-hunting.

Planning a renovation? No doubt you’ve heard of Italy’s 110 percent ‘superbonus’ scheme – see all the latest news and information about claiming it in our property section.

Dealing with bureaucracy

Italian bureaucracy may be notoriously tricky to deal with, but a little planning goes a long way in reducing paperwork-related stress. So where should you start? See our guide to the five most essential documents you’ll need to get.

If you’re planning to move to Italy long-term, residency is a must. You may also be looking at gaining Italian citizenship via one of several pathways. Here’s a look at the difference between residency and citizenship, plus the resources you’ll need to apply for either.

From visas to driving licences, tax codes and health cards, we have guides to navigating all aspects of Italy’s famous bureaucracy

And if your bureaucratic woes are Brexit-related, see our latest guides to the paperwork you’ll need in our ‘Dealing with Brexit’ section.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Work and self-employment

If you’d love to relocate to Italy but are concerned about employment prospects, here are the 25 jobs and skills the country has a shortage of right now.

Looking for a job but don’t speak Italian (yet)? Here’s a quick look at some of the opportunities readers have found that don’t require a high level of language proficiency.

Find more news and practical guides on jobs and self-employment in Italy here.

Learning the Italian language

This is no doubt one of your top priorities if you’re moving to Italy, but it doesn’t have to be a struggle.

Give your conversational Italian a quick boost with our list of 12 incredibly useful Italian words to know, and some amusing idioms that people actually use.

Our Word of the Day series explains some of our favourite expressions, as well as the slang and curious phrases that you probably won’t find in your Italian class textbook.

Photo: Vincenzo PINTO/AFP

Everyday life in Italy

Whatever daily obstacles you might come up against on your Italian adventure, we’ve got you covered.

Find out why you’ll be a frequent visitor to the local tabaccheria whether you smoke or not – plus here’s a guide to the most common mistakes foreigners make when they first move to Italy.

Life abroad has been even trickier to navigate during the coronavirus pandemic, and we’ll continue to keep you informed of any rule changes here.

Don’t forget you can also submit a reader’s question if there’s any aspect of life in Italy you’d like The Local’s writers to explain. Find out how here.

Italian food and travel

Of course, the lifestyle is one of the biggest reasons people choose to relocate to Italy, and this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Italy’s famed cuisine.

Here’s a look at how your eating and drinking habits change when you move to Italy, plus avoid any embarrassing faux pas at the bar with our guide to drinking coffee like an Italian.

And no doubt exploring the country will be a priority once you’ve moved to Italy. See our travel section for inspiration and guides to our favourite weekend destinations, and keep an eye on Italian travel news here.

Which aspect of Italian life would you like to hear more about on The Local? Get in touch and let us know at [email protected]

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