“Despite good economic development in Germany many of the population's well-being hopes remain unfulfilled,” polling company Ipsos said of the release of its National Well-Being Index.
“Most of all, German citizens want to live securely and not fear for their lives.”
“No financial worries” was the top answer to the question of what prosperity meant, with 77 percent including it as one of their choices.
It was followed closely by the simple wish to “have a secure income” (71 percent) and “own property” (71 percent).
“Security is the new freedom of the Germans,” Professor Horst Opaschowski said of his findings.
He worked with Ipsos between 2012 and 2015 to survey 24,000 people.
Almost half of Germans told the pollsters that they themselves felt prosperous. The figure grew to 48.4 percent in 2015, a significant rise compared with the 42.3 who felt well-off in 2012.
The definition of prosperity used by Ipsos for the Index wasn't only based on economic factors, but also freedom of expression and a peaceful society.
“Good social conditions in Germany contribute significantly to the well-being of the population,” Ipsos noted.
But the survey also found that the natural environment in Germany had little effect on people's well-being.
Just 34 percent said that they lived in an “environmentally conscious” way – something Opaschowski said was because the idea of the environment “lacks emotional proximity”.
“While, for example, driving the car can be 'dear to someone's heart', environmental policy usually comes with a wagging finger and speaks of consequences that are destructive of nature,” he said.
Elderly are biggest winners
Just 15 percent of people over 65 thought they were at the bottom of the pollsters' 4-point prosperity index, while more than three times as many – in fact, half of all seniors – said they were at the top.
The researchers said that old people were also more likely to live harmoniously in their communities, own more property, have fewer financial worries and be more environmentally conscious.
“You can see the balance of their lives,” Opaschowski said. “Their risk factors are concentrated around illness and isolation. But on the other hand they experience and enjoy new freedoms and a high quality of life.”
Calling the seniors 'Generation Superior', the Professor added that they have more choice in their own lives and are more assiduously courted by politicians compared with 14-49-year-olds.
“Even if older people don't have high pensions or other income, most of them are sure of being able to pay their costs of living,” said Ipsos expert Hans-Peter Drews, adding that “young people simply lack this security.”
Bavaria and Hamburg were the German states happiest with their levels of well-being, at 54.5 percent and 55.2 percent, respectively.
Trailing the rest was Saxony-Anhalt, where only one-third of the population felt that they were able to “live well”.
But there was little trace of a sharp East-West divde in overall well-being, with Thuringians just as happy as people from Lower Saxony at around 44 percent each.
And people in northeasterly Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania were just as content as people in Hesse at around 41 percent.
People in former East Germany, though, were much more likely to feel insecure in their job.
Just 36 percent of people in Thuringia and Mecklenburg felt like they had a secure job, compared with 60 percent in Bavaria and 59 percent in Hamburg.
'Family is the best life insurance'
Thuringians were the closest to their families of any state in Germany, with 82 percent saying they had “good contact with my family” – well ahead of second-placed Bavaria at 77 percent.
But nowhere was there a majority of people who felt that they were distant from their family, with the lowest scores going to Saxony-Anhalt at 59 percent and Baden-Württemberg at 53 percent.
“Family survives all crises,” said Opaschowski. “In your family, you feel safe. It's the best life insurance.”
What comes next
Opaschowski argued that the results of the survey show that politicians need to think longer-term about how best to serve their constituents.
“Citizens get the impression that politics lives off the present and doesn't think about tomorrow,” he said.
“It's hard to see a political will for the future that supports and motivates the people to secure their own future.”
He argues that people's real questions about well-being are not to do with exactly how much money they have but simply “how and based on what will we live tomorrow?”
Very few of the things people said were important to them were being achieved, he pointed out.
Just 38 percent felt they didn't have any money worries in their lives, compared with the 76 percent who said it was very important.
And there were big gaps between people's ideal and real situations when it came to financial planning, secure income and a secure job.
“Governments will have to consider their priorities if they want to keep voters on their side,” the authors write.
And Professor Opaschowski concludes that “the balance between the economic strength of the country and people's well-being is in danger.
“Political authorities for quality of life, family and generational relationships, saving against the risk of bad health and social cohesion will have to be the political priorities of the future.
“Such 'future ministries' will concern themselves with social progress and create true well-being.”