Introducing a Nation of Nail Biters | News and current affairs from Germany and around the world | DW | 30.11.2004

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Introducing a Nation of Nail Biters

Those who say there is "nothing to fear but fear itself" have obviously spent too little time in Germany. A study on the nation's anxieties shows just how angst-ridden Germany is.

Germans aren't exactly a happy-go-lucky people

Germans aren't exactly a happy-go-lucky people

Germans have never been known as a happy-go-lucky bunch. But at least they have some variety in their anxieties. In a new study, the nation of depressive worriers expressed fundamentally different concerns than they did ten years ago.

Personal and social themes now weigh heavily on the German mind, replacing the worries over the state of the environment and criminality, dominant topics in the early 1990s.

The results of the Allensbach Insitute for public opinion poll, which interviewed 1,071 Germans over the age of 16, reflected social and demographic changes in the country and the world at large.

Fear of large-scale terror

Some 46 percent of respondents worried about "more and more foreigners coming into the country," while 45 percent said they feared having a lower income in the future. And 44 percent reported that they were worried about having "too little money in old age."

Of course, the events of September 11, 2001, have left their mark in Germany as they have elsewhere.

Warntafel Verkehrsschwerpunkt Auto Autounfall

Traffic accidents are too trivial a threat for most Germany to seriously worry about them.

While in the early 1990s, 53 percent of respondents said they were worried about being the victim of a traffic accident, today just 27 percent of Germans bother with such piddling concerns. In contrast, however, 42 percent of respondents expressed a fear that Germany would find itself the target of a large-scale terror attack. And 35 percent feared possible "violent clashes between radical groups."

Meanwhile, organic-food-fortress Germany seems to be showing some cracks: A decade ago, 52 percent of the population was worried about the effects of chemically altered foods on their own health, down to 40 percent today.

Less worry on environment

Bauernhaus mit Schloten

Environmental pollution is not number one on Germany's list of worries

German concerns about environmental damage was also down from a decade ago: Only seven percent of respondents said they were worried about getting ill from automobile fumes, down from 28 percent in 1992. Likewise, the fear of dangerous drinking water plunged to five percent from 38 percent.

In the early 1990s, Germans were seriously concerned over being a victim of a criminal act. But that worry fell from 49 percent to just 28 percent today. In 1992, 42 percent of Germans were worried about being mugged, while just 29 percent share that worry today. The fear of being robbed dropped from 33 to 25 percent.

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