Eurispes survey: a year of Covid in Italy


On February 21, 2020, exactly one year ago, the first Italian case of Covid-19 was officially identified in the Lombard village of Codogno, later referred to as “patient 1”. Since that day, in a general disbelief, the virus has rapidly spread in Italy and operating a radical change in lifestyle for Italian people.

Private housing has suddenly become the only safe place

The period of strict lockdown set up between March and May to contain the pandemic had a radical and enforced impact on Italian lifestyle. Private housing has suddenly become the only safe place, most shops were closed and, for the few open, with limited access – with very long queue especially in front of supermarkets – as well as schools, restaurants and gyms, all culture and entertainment sites were closed, often indefinitely.

Proximity to others has become a threat to be avoided as much as possible: it has been a year wearing face masks and social distancing, keeping a meter away prevented Italian people from hugging each other and from handshaking, but also took them away the pleasure of enjoying each other’s company, while they keep repeating themselves that “we will be back at hugging each other again”.

Therefore, consumption habits, way of working (with home working increasing), communication methods in everyday life and how people approach the Internet (becoming increasingly crucial and essential Italian people lives), the attitude towards information (pandemic insecurity has led to a surge in television ratings, especially for news and information programs) have forcibly changed.

Moreover, healthcare system has become a point of reference, permanently in the spotlight, between heroic behaviour and deep contradictions, within the framework of a Public Health System pushed close to collapse, revealing its values and weaknesses.

In order to explore, to allow Italians to raise their voice and to analyse how life in Italy has changed during this unprecedented year and what has been the impact on citizens, Eurispes has carried out a Survey on a sample of 2,063 citizens, representative of the Italian population.

The research was carried out through the direct administration of a semi-structured questionnaire, distributed between November 2020 and January 2021.

Consumption and new habits

The impact of the pandemic on consumption habits and lifestyles. 21.9% say they have ordered delivery (food items) for the first time since March 2020, which is right after the covid-19 pandemic exploded. Ordering dinner or other meals at home was already quite common (28.6% did so even before the pandemic), but since March 16.8% of the sample did it for the first time.

For the first time, 13.1% ordered home medicines, in order to avoid queuing at drugstores fearing contagion.

An increased use of new technological communication tools was observed: 45.2% already used to communicate with friends/relatives via video call; with the spread of the virus almost a third did it for the first time (30.7%). In this period, 11.1% of the sample purchased kitchen tools (food robots, bread machines, professional pots, etc.), in line with the boom of more or less last minute “amateur chefs” who spent their free time cooking and who, by doing so, compensated for not being allowed to go to the restaurant.

13.4% have purchased a subscription to streaming platforms (Netflix, Infinity, etc.) (36.3% already did it before). And finally, the decision to buy/rent home fitness equipment involved a not negligible rate of 14% (12.2% already bought/rent it before).

Despite the restrictions of the pandemic, e-commerce remains “unknown” for three out of ten

Delays in access to ultra-broadband networks in some areas of the Italian territory and the persistence of digital illiteracy in a not negligible part of the population (especially among the elderly), led as a result to a considerable percentage of people out of e-commerce: still 29.1% report never shopping online.

On the other hand, with varying intensity, shopping online is becoming the custom for many: 18.2% of the sample rarely shop online, 25.9% sometimes, while 16.3% often and 10.5%habitually.

Over-64s are the only age group in which those who never shop online prevail (59%).

Clothing, books, technologies items are those mostly purchased online

Items purchased online include: clothing (only a third, 33.7% never did so), books (34.5% never did so), technological equipment (36.2% never did so), household items (39.6% never did so), movies/TV series via platform (41.9% never did so). Products which are less online purchased are medicines (79.4% have never bought them online), beverages (71.5%), online courses (67.5%) and, in general, food (63.8%). Following the perfumery/beauty products (57.1% never buy them online).

A very large gap between the generations emerges in terms of online purchase of clothing: only 16.8% of 18-24 year olds do not, against 24.4% of 25-34 year olds, 27.3% of 35-44 year olds, 37.3% of 45-64 year olds, and 52.8% of over-64s, the only category in which non-buyers prevail. For technological equipment (TV, smartphones, tablets, etc.), for books, for audio-visual products, online buyers increase as the age decrease; in any case, there are fewer buyers among the elderly.

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