Sweden/ 8.2 Cultural consumption and participation  

8.2.1 Trends and figures

Most people under 80 years old are culturally active, in the widest sense, visiting at least one cultural institution per year (concert, film, library, museum, drama, art exhibition). The general trend is that more and more old people attend cultural events. However, younger people, in the last 10 years, have shown a decrease in activity in the traditional cultural areas, which have been measured since 1976.

The most recent published general survey of cultural activity in Sweden includes data from 2014. At that time 43% of the adult population attended theatre performances, 18% classical concerts, 47% visited museums, and 55% public libraries. 7% sang in choirs, 86% had read at least 1 book in the last year, 22% and had written poetry or diaries. Women generally seem to have a wider interest in the arts than men do. Participation in cultural associations decreased in the 1990s but was in 2009 stable at a level where about 5% of the adult population are members (for more information, see table 5 below).

While younger people show less attendance at traditional cultural events than other age groups, they participate actively in cultural activities to a higher degree; this includes not only new activities, but also established activities such as playing music and participating in amateur theatre. Young Swedes also access the Internet more than other age groups and are active users of a number of Internet services for publishing their own work. Expenditure on films, festivals and music among young people is also very high.

Internet use in Sweden is among the highest in the world. In 2012, 90% of Swedes had access to the Internet and 74% used it daily. In 2011, 66% of Internet users used it to listen to music, 64% used social media such as Facebook, 66% used the interactive encyclopaedia Wikipedia, 40% read blogs and 25% participated in file-sharing. These figures illustrate the drastic changes, opportunities and challenges posed by new modes of communication to cultural policy, as well as too other policy areas. According to recent studies, illegal file sharing is now increasingly outcompeted by legal services such as Spotify.

While reading trends among adults are stable or increasing, young people read less (at least when it comes to printed material), but the trend towards decreasing reading in the 1990s has not continued into the new century (lately decreased reading of printed material among young people may also relate to Internet sources taking over the role previously held by non-fiction books, such as encyclopaedias, as a source of information).

In general, cultural statistics have been criticised for not being adapted enough to the changes that have occurred in cultural habits, especially after the spread of internet use and IT related cultural habits in the last decade. In a report form 2013, the Swedish Agency for Cultural Analysis stated that current cultural statistics is “mainly focused on the cultural form and its distribution. There are, for example, questions about cinema and book reading, rather than on consumption of film and literature. The surveys focus on form and means of distribution rather than on content, and thus become vulnerable to technological change”. Current developments thus raise new questions on how cultural statistics can be conducted better.

Table 5:    Household expenditure for private cultural participation and consumption by domain, 2012


Household expenditure for culture in national currency

% share of total household expenditure

Investment costs for TV, video, DVD etc.

8 124


TV licence fees

6 804


Fees for cable and satellite TV etc.

8 165


Film, music and games

2 227


Tickets for music, theatre, cinema, museum etc.

4 825


Cultural and artistic activity

2 680


Musical instruments and art

2 227



3 753



4 866


Other reading

2 074



2 074


Source:    Kulturens finansiering 2012-2013, Myndigheten för kulturanalys 2014.

Table 6:    Cultural habits in Sweden, 2014


% share of surveyed population who do this yearly

Read a book


Photographed or filmed




Drawn or painted


Written diary or poetry


Played a musical instrument


Sang in a choir


Played theatre, LARP etc.


Visited a library


Participated in a study circle or course


Been to a cinema


Been to a theatre


Been to a rock or pop concert


Been to a musical


Been to a classical concert or opera


Been to ballet or dance performance


Visited a historical site or building


Visited a museum


Visited an artistic exhibition


Source:    Myndigheten för Kulturanalys 2016: Kulturvanor: Rapport 2016:1
*           Information from 2013.

Chapter published: 16-05-2017