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What's keeping Germans awake at night in 2015?

Jörg Luyken · 4 Sep 2015, 11:37

Published: 03 Sep 2015 17:37 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 Sep 2015 11:37 GMT+02:00

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"Current threats and challenges coming at us from outside our borders are causing a lot of fear this year,“ said Rita Jakli, spokeswoman for insurance company R+V Versicherung that has produced the "Fears of the Germans" study annually since 1992.

This year the number one cause of concern, like last year, was the Eurozone crisis and its impact on the pocket of German tax payers.

The number of people citing this fear went up four percent from 2014 to 64 percent of the 2,400 people interviewed for the survey - a figure perhaps influenced by the timing of the survey, carried out between June 5th and July 17th at the height of negotiations on a new Greek bailout.

"Germans are people who seek financial security - worries about their precious money have been troubling them forever," noted Manfred Schmidt a political scientist at University of Heidelberg and an advisor to the study.

But Greeks aren't the only foreigners giving Germans sleepless nights this year.

In fourth place on the list was the fear of "excessive demand placed on citizens and the authorities by asylum seekers," with every second German describing this as a "big fear" - while almost as many (49 percent) said they were "very scared" of political extremism.

Beware jihadis surfing in on tsunamis

Confirming the stereotype that Germans tend to always see the glass as half empty there were some fairly inexplicable concerns high up the list.

Fear of impending natural catastrophe was the worry second most likely to have Germans coming out in cold sweats - a finding explained by the insurance company as being due to a string of natural disasters which have hit the world over the last 12 months.

Still, since the last natural disaster to hit Germany took place 53 years ago – and is unlikely to have such serious consequences in the future due to improvements in flood defences – one might be better off assigning this result to a Faustian fear of meddling with nature which has also led them to reject nuclear energy and genetically modified food.

Third on the list is a fear of terrorist attacks, which went up 13 percent since 2014 making it the biggest climber in the 2015 fear charts.

The study notes that "after the attacks on 'Charlie Hebdo' in Paris and the massacre at a Tunisian tourists spot, as well as the continuous brutality of terrorist groups, the fear of a terrorist attack has jumped up dramatically.“

One doesn't have to go quite as far back in history as the Hamburg flood of 1962 to find the last major terrorist attack on German soil. But the Munich hostage crisis of 1970 isn't exactly fresh in the memory, so why the worry?

"For Germans with their pacifistic prevailing mood, terror and war cause particular fear," commented Heidelberg professor Schmidt.

Divorced from reality

Fear about personal crises general featured low on the list.

While concerns about losing independence in old age was prominent, with 49 percent of people saying it worried them, loneliness in old age and fear of marital break-up were much further down.

Only 15 percent of Germans said they were worried about their relationship falling apart, despite well over forty percent of marriages in the Federal Republic ending in divorce.

Story continues below…

The survey also threw up other interesting quirks. In Bavaria, the state with the lowest joblessness rate in the country, more people (36 percent) were worried about losing their jobs than in Berlin.

Just 29 percent of Berliners had this fear despite the capital having the worst unemployment figures in the country.

Meanwhile in Saxony, fear that one's children would become drug dependent was far above the national average, despite the eastern state having one of the lowest instances of drug related deaths in the country

Cost of living real fear in East

Overall, people in former east Germany have more worries than in the former west.

The residents of Saarland and Rhineland Palatinate are particularly chilled, with only a little over a quarter (28 percent) of the respondents in these southern states saying that they had something weighing on their mind.

Sachsen-Anhalt was the state which worried the most. But like all the eastern states, fear of the effects of immigration took second place to fears about rises in the cost of living, illustrating an underlying problem in the still-economically-marginalized former communist states.

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Jörg Luyken (joerg.luyken@thelocal.com)

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