Lugano Happiness Forum: the new frontier of individual and collective well-being

The transition from an intangible element of the emotional sphere to a priority factor of human well-being is a done deal: scientific research is learning to study happiness.

The starting point is indicated by the World Health Organization (WHO), which defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”: a broad concept that also includes happiness and which – despite being still complex and elusive – has profound implications for the individual and the collective well-being.

It is precisely from the awareness of the central role that happiness plays in modern society that the Lugano Happiness Forum, realised by IBSA Foundation for scientific research, by the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness in Boston (Harvard University) and by the City of Lugano, in collaboration with USI – University of Italian Switzerland, LAC – Lugano Arte e Cultura and Lugano Region. Held on June 17-18, 2024 at LAC in Lugano, the Forum was an opportunity to open the doors of this new front of knowledge also to the public. The event saw a huge attendance, with over 500 people present over the two days of proceedings.


IBSA Foundation for scientific research investigates the boundaries of knowledge, from global scientific innovation to dissemination through the arts, while supporting several activities that aim to understand all indicators of well-being (including happiness), promoting the interaction between human sciences and exact sciences and disseminating a scientific culture accessible to all.

Realised within the project Cultura e Salute (“Culture and Health”) and ideally connected to the International Day of Happiness, the Forum brought together international experts, scientists and decision makers, who took stock of the most recent scientific evidence and the new theories that characterise the debate and research on the topic.

Under the guidance of Vish K. Viswanath, Director of the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness in Boston, the Forum pursued clear objectives: discuss the complexity of the concept of happiness and underline the importance of multidisciplinarity – understood as a network of supportive and proactive collaborations between all researchers – in dealing with, managing and attempting to synthesise such an intricate topic.

Studying happiness – and this clearly emerged from the debate – cannot in fact ignore a broad vision that considers various observation points and different disciplinary approaches. The contamination of ideas and experiences may be the “Rosetta stone” for a scientific and determinable interpretation of happiness.

Given its multidimensional and subjective nature, measuring happiness remains a complex challenge, but during the Forum sessions numerous scientific studies were presented which highlighted the importance of the correlations between happiness and biomedical, social and economic variables. The use of biological indicators such as cortisol to measure stress, for example, was one of them. In general, a lot has been done, but there is still a lot to do.


Among the key points that emerged from the Forum, one concept appears extremely interesting: one’s happiness cannot be fully achieved if the happiness of the community to which one belongs is not also considered. In fact, individual happiness appears to be closely linked to the well-being of the community in which we live.

Social connection involves caring about the well-being of the community, the family, the workplace, the city or the entire nation, because only in a happy community can the individual be truly happy. To confirm this – and as highlighted by some studies and various best practices – people who have strong (ed. physical, and not just digital) social connections are happier and healthier, live longer and are more productive than those who have less of them.


In conclusion, the speakers of the Forum shed light on how appropriately calibrated research and investigations can provide a solid basis for developing more effective strategies aimed at improving individual and social well-being.

The resulting message is that happiness must be considered a fundamental human right, and must become a priority. To achieve this, it is necessary to integrate scientific research on happiness into public policies and corporate decisions.

The first Happiness Forum has already sent a signal: promote new perspectives, disseminate cutting-edge research, invite decision-makers to translate evidence into public policies aimed at improving people’s health. This is an opportunity for the entire community.

We are at the dawn of a new frontier and, as always, research will accompany us along this path.