A new report shows that not only is depression on the rise in Germany, but Berliners are the most miserable of all. Is it something in the water, or are they simply more open about their feelings?
The trials of modern life are too much for some
The German capital may be one of the liveliest cities in the world, but apparently, plenty of its citizens don't even want to get out of bed in the morning.
According to a 2005 health survey published this week by DAK, a German health insurer, the number of people diagnosed with depression in Berlin has risen 70 percent since 1997.
A study of 90,000 working Berliners revealed that while 10 percent fewer people took sick leave from work in the past year, some 12 percent of those who stayed home did so because they were suffering from depression and panic attacks. Mental problems are therefore the top reason for absence from work, well ahead of other health issues.
Berlin registered more cases of sick leave for psychological reasons than any other state in Germany, with the residents of Hamburg and Bremen limping in close behind.
One reason could be that Germany is still malingering in the shadow of fiscal gloom.
"In times of economic insecurity, young people in particular tend to develop psychological problems in response to professional and private obstacles," explained DAK CEO Herbert Rebscher.
Surprisingly, however, psychological difficulties seem to be less of a burden in the struggling eastern states.
A nation of cry-babies?
So why are so many Berliners so down-in-the-mouth? Maybe they're just the only ones admitting how bad they feel. Therapy and mental illness are far less of a taboo in liberal, anonymous urban environments than in small towns and rural areas. Because treatment is far more widely available in cities, more people are willing to seek help, thereby boosting the statistics.
According to the DAK report, 70 percent of Germans say they would turn to the professionals for advice and support with psychological problems.
But Hans-Dieter Nolting from the Institute for Health and Social Research suspects that Germans have simply become more sensitive. At the same time, public pressure to get ahead makes it harder to nip emerging problems in the bud. Who can afford to call in sick just because they're feeling a bit weepy?
The cut-throat modern world
In a similar vein, Rebscher cited "the transformation of the modern working world" as a key factor.
The high-octane climate of contemporary life is taking its toll, he says. In a nation of 5 million unemployed, performance anxiety, fear of failure, rivalry, the threat of layoffs and bullying in the workplace can all contribute to a sense of helplessness and despair.
Young people are particularly prone to melancholy. Psychological problems in men between 25 and 29 and women between 20 and 24 have doubled. Women are more likely to seek help.
They might not have to work anymore, but the elderly aren't exactly jumping with joy either. One in three pensioners say they suffer from one or another form of psychological illness. Ten years ago, only 18 percent admitted to feeling blue. Even so, most Germans would rather be employed and depressed than unemployed and happy. It's a vicious circle. "How will someone ever get better," wondered Burghard Klopp, a depression expert at Berlin's Charité hospital, "when they know their boss is just waiting to fire them?"