A report released on Thursday by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) reveals that Germans perhaps overestimate their healthy lifestyles.
More Germans in 2014 considered themselves to be physically fit than ten years ago – 65 percent of Germans said they were healthy, compared to 60 percent in 2004. And about 8 percent in 2014 said they felt they were in poor or very poor health, compared to 9 percent in 2004.
So Germans seem to have better perceptions of their own health a decade later, but as the rest of the report reveals, this isn’t always the case.
Germans on average spend about 4.5 times as much time in front of the TV each day as they do exercising, or a little over two hours watching shows compared to 27 minutes doing physical activities.
Unhealthy lifestyles are leading to heavier Germans. One in six adults in 2013 were very overweight: 17 percent of men and 14 percent of women. In 1999, 12 percent of men and 11 percent of women were very overweight.
The places with the highest rates of obesity were the eastern states Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt at nearly 19 percent. The city-states of Hamburg and Berlin had the lowest rates at 11 percent and 13 percent respectively.
Part of the obesity issue could be a lack of exercise: in 2010, one in five German adults were not getting enough physical activity. And though by 2015 a quarter of German households had at least one exercise machine at home, statistician Sarreither said it is questionable whether these are being used regularly.
Obesity as well as smoking, unhealthy eating and a lack of exercise increase the risk of circulatory disease, which was the most common cause of death in Germany in 2014, taking the lives of 8.4 percent of men and 7.7 percent of women who died.
Lacking money for fruit
When it comes to nutrition, Germans are also missing the mark. In 2013, the average household spent €300 per month on groceries, which is not significantly higher than ten years before. This means that food budgets have not increased with the prices for food over the past decade, and thus that people are not splurging as much for more expensive products like fruits and vegetables.
For example, Germans increased their budgets for fruit over the past decade by 15 percent, from €20 to €23 per month. But during that same time period up until 2013, the prices for fruit went up by 37 percent.
Therefore Germans are either investing less in pricy but vitamin-rich fruits, or they are searching for cheaper options, said statistician Dieter Sarreither.
One in 12 Germans live in households that lack money to afford a fully nutritious meal every other day. This was more prevalent for single-person or single-parents households at 16 percent, or about one in six.
Decrease in alcohol consumption and smoking
One area that Germans did make improvements in was smoking and drinking. The average expenditure hasn’t changed much for tobacco (€17 per month) or alcohol (€26 per month), though prices have jumped up in the past decade: alcohol by 13 percent and tobacco by 63 percent.
Just by comparing the expenditure and price differences, one can estimate that people are not drinking or smoking as much. And in fact, Germans each smoked on average 170 fewer cigarettes or cigars in all of 2015 than in 2005. Alcohol consumption likewise decreased, down to 9.7 litres of pure alcohol per capita in 2013 from a high of 12.9 litres in 1980. Underage smoking and binge-drinking has also dropped.
But despite the hip trends of vegetarianism and veganism, German meat consumption has not changed much in more than a decade: In 2014, Germans each ate about 87 kilos of meat, which was a decrease of a mere 1 kilo since 2001 (1.1 percent).