Less than 40% of Italians read a book for pleasure last year, data showed on Thursday, the lowest figure for 22 years, but children were more avid readers than their parents.
National statistics bureau ISTAT reported that 39.3% of people above the age of five read at least one book in 2022 for a reason other than study or work. That was down from 40.8% in 2021 and the lowest since 2000.
Reading picked up marginally during the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted a downtrend that began in 2010, ISTAT said.
Only 17.4% of people had read as many as three books in the 12 months prior to the survey, it said.
Women and children are much more inclined to open a book than men, the data showed, with the most avid readers being girls between 11 and 14 years of age, of whom around 64% had read at least one book during the year.
Overall, female readership is 10 points higher than for males, ISTAT said, continuing a trend which began in 1988.
More people used libraries in 2022 than in the previous two years which were hit badly by COVID lockdowns, with around 10% of people over the age of three making at least one visit during the year.
However, library use was still down sharply compared with 2019, before the outbreak of the pandemic, with a reduction of 13.5% among people between 6 and 24 years of age.