German life satisfaction atlas scores high | News | DW | 18.10.2016
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Trends in Germany

German life satisfaction atlas scores high

Satisfaction with life in Germany is scoring at its highest level for years, according to an annual survey. That's despite debate on Europe's crisis over refugee arrivals and terrorist threats.

Germany's annual "happiness atlas" (Glücksatlas) compiled by researchers in Freiburg and Bonn for the company Deutsche Post DHL portrayed Germany's 82-million population Tuesday at its most satisfied on average since 2001.

Its happiest residents live north of coastal Hamburg, in Schleswig-Holstein, but not so far to the east, Mecklenburg-Western Pomeranians rank as the most dissatisfied.

Respondents who said they tolerated cultural diversity - enhanced through recent migrant arrivals - were the most happy even to the point of describing mixed origins as socially enriching.

The study ranked Germany at 7.11 on a gloom-to-joy scale of between zero and 10 in 2016, after the curve had stayed virtually level at 7 percent since 2010.

Top of 19 regions - defined more elaborately than Germany's 16 federal states - was Schleswig-Holstein, the maritime region north of Hamburg bounded by the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and south of the border with Denmark.

Bavaria's Franconia ranked second

Second placed, and climbing since 2013, was Franconia, the northern rural part of Bavaria located around cities such as Nuremburg, Erlangen and Wurzburg - centers of high-tech industry and wine growing.

Ranked lowest was Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the coastal Baltic Sea region, once in former communist East Germany, where population and economic indicators still lag behind western German states, more than 25 years after reunification.

In September, the upstart nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party entered Mecklenburg's Schwerin assembly, beating Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats into third place.

Low-ranked at 15th was Saxony, another eastern German state at the center of disquiet over xenophobia, and Germany's eastern-lying capital Berlin, at 16th (shown above during the "Carnival of Cultures" last May).

Hamburg city-state, which in 2011 was ranked number one, had slipped to sixth overall, outpaced by southern and central German regions such as Baden and Hesse as well as Lower Saxony centered on Hanover in Germany's northwest.

Präsentation Glücksatlas 2013 (picture-alliance/dpa)

Researcher Bernd Raffelhüschen compiled the findings

This year's ranking was compiled by Freiburg University's Professor Bernd Raffelhüschen and combined with cultural diversity findings from Reinhard Schlinkert of the Bonn-based opinion survey institute dimap.

They attributed this year's happiness gain mainly to residents of western Germany, whose overall happiness level was 7.16 compared to 6.88 in eastern Germany.

That gap of 0.28 reflects a persistent offset that has prevailed more or less since 1991, one year after formal German reunification.

Objective economic data did not explain the difference, said the researchers, because recent improvements in gross domestic product and employment had been more pronounced in the east than in the west.

The 'happiness atlas' was based on a sample of 5888 persons - taken by another research institute Allensbach between January and May - who were asked to rank how satisfied they were with their current life. 

Tolerance boosts happiness

Dimap's survey, based on a sampling of 1001 adults early this year, found that respondents tolerant of cultural diversity were more likely to be satisfied with life - in stark contrast to Germany's debate since last year on refugee arrivals.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said Germany was an open and tolerant country. Only 19 percent did not see it that way.

More than two-thirds (67 percent) endorsed the view that immigration made Germany more diverse and 62 percent said coexistence with persons from various cultural backgrounds brought more benefits than drawbacks.

A large 86 percent affirmed the view that established residents could learn from nearly arrived immigrants, but when it came to progress on integration skepticism emerged.

Well-functioning coexistence was acknowledged by 54 percent in western regions of Germany, but only by 35 percent in eastern regions.

Deutsche Post DHL's board executive Jürgen Gerdes said more effort was still needed in Germany.

"If we want to improve on openness and tolerance, and that's want we want to do, then we should do everything possible to improve contacts between immigrants and residents - at the workplace, in the neighborhood and at school," Gerdes said.

ipj/se (KNA, AFP)

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