Shifts in the fears of the Germans

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Less fear of disease and war, more fear of the euro debt crisis

Fears in the population are subject to significant changes from year to year. In most cases, they also reflect global developments and incidents. Fear of war, terrorist attacks, economic crises, illnesses and natural disasters - a wide range of fears is recorded in the long-term study "The Fears of the Germans" by R + V Versicherung.

According to the study, the euro debt crisis has become the biggest scaring agent in the course of last year. It has replaced war and illness as the most common cause of fear. Overall, however, the study is showing a very positive development. The so-called fear index, i.e. the fear of the Germans as a whole, has dropped significantly and has reached its lowest level in almost two decades. Fears of job loss, illness and criminal offenses were also at record low last year, according to the study presented in Berlin on Thursday.

Fear of economic crises and rising cost of living As part of the representative study "The Fears of the Germans", R + V Versicherung has been asking around 2,500 citizens about their fears for more than 20 years. The biggest concern for the respondents in this year's survey was the economy. The fear of rising living costs is again at the top with 63 percent, report the authors of the study. A total of 13 times in the past 20 years this has been number one among German fears. The experts see this fear as closely related to the euro debt crisis. The same applies to fears of an economic downturn, which has increased by four percent and is shared by 52 percent of the population. Concerns about political failure are also at least indirectly related to the euro debt crisis. “For years, the majority of Germans have doubted that the people's representatives are up to the task. At 55 percent, the fear of politicians being overwhelmed is in second place this year, ”R + V Versicherung said about the current study.

Falling fear of job loss A special survey made it clear that the euro debt crisis is currently by far the greatest scaremonger. “Almost three quarters of all Germans (73 percent) fear that they will have to pay the bill for the euro debt crisis. In view of this threat, all other worries take a back seat, ”explained Rita Jakli, head of the R + V Versicherung information center. Although confidence in economic development is waning, the fear of losing one's own job has decreased by four percentage points nationwide compared to the previous year and reached a record low. Only in 1994 was this concern so slight, the authors report. Today, on average, only around a third of Germans (32 percent) are afraid of losing their jobs. Manfred G. Schmidt from Heidelberg University, advisor to the R + V information center, explained that the decreasing fear of losing a job was due to the currently comparatively low unemployment rate of less than seven percent. On the other hand, almost every third person is still afraid of losing their job, which makes it clear that "the risk of becoming unemployed is only concentrated on a portion of the workforce, for example on the less qualified," said Prof. Schmidt. It was striking, according to the study authors, that only for the second time since the study existed was the fear of losing a job more important to women than men.

Fear of need for long-term care among women 50 percent of those surveyed expressed the fear of becoming dependent on care. However, despite increasing numbers of nurses, there is no increase in fears of long-term care, the study authors report. At least half of the respondents fear, however, that “later on they will be a burden for others as a case of care.” The clearest gender-specific differences can also be observed here. 55 percent of all women were afraid of long-term care, compared to ten percent less men. The researchers found decreasing fears in the areas of terrorism and war (minus eleven percentage points each), natural disasters (minus eight percent) and worries about falling victim to a crime (minus six percent). The study also recorded a significant drop in fears of a nuclear disaster, which decreased by five percentage points. According to Prof. Schmidt, "certainly two major events" play a significant role in this. “In 2012, unlike last year, there was no Fukushima. And the nuclear phase-out, which the black-and-yellow coalition decided and implemented in 2011, alleviates nuclear fears, ”said the political scientist.

In addition, the results of the fear study show a decreasing fear of the population that their own children will become addicted to drugs or alcohol (minus four percent), a decreasing fear of the failure of their own partnership (minus two percent) - despite increasing divorce rates - and the lowest score in two decades for fear of a serious illness. According to the current figures, the Germans are far more anxious about the future than was the case a year ago. (fp)

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Image: Thommy Weiss,

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