Happiness of Germans dips to record low

A family on the beach in north Germany.
Family has not been the lucky charm of old this year. Photo: Bernd Wüstneck
The general happiness of Germans has never been so low since the start of an annual survey in 1984. But one state in particular stands out for (almost) bucking the trend.

The Glücksatlas – happiness atlas – published by Deutsche Post on Wednesday showed Germans had an average score of 6.58 from 10 in 2021, making it the least happy year in the history of the survey. A score of 10 means ‘totally happy’ and 0 means totally unhappy.

The record low set this year beat last year’s previous low point of 6.74.

The tumbling levels of contentment come after Germans had reached peak happiness before the pandemic, with an average score of 7.14 in 2019.

The state of Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany has barely suffered a pandemic-hit to happiness though – and is now the happiest place in the country along with traditionally blissed out Schleswig-Holstein. Both states scored 6.78 on the happiness scale.

East German states have long lagged way behind the wet in terms of happiness. Saxony-Anhalt is the first eastern state to ever come out on (joint) top.

East Germans (yellow line) have long been less happy than their west German counterparts (orange line).

The report’s authors said this was down to the fact that the population of the rural state is old and more likely to live alone. Young people, particularly parents, have faced the most stress during the pandemic, the study found.

“Saxony-Anhalt has very low incomes. Normally, this is a happiness killer. In the pandemic though it was mainly higher income earners who suffered a loss of happiness,” the report noted.

Vaccines give ‘boost’

The study authors said there was a clear link between levels of contentment and the severity of the pandemic. “The higher the infection rate and the stricter the measures, the lower the happiness level was,” they concluded. 

The effects of a vaccination were also examined. According to the authors, getting inoculated triggered a “significant boost in happiness” and raised life satisfaction by an average of 0.52 points.

Overall, the survey found that unvaccinated people were considerably less happy than those who had got her jabs, while they were considerably less likely to say that they were glad to live in Germany.

“The greatest dissatisfaction was caused by the rather excessive lockdowns, while the greatest boost in satisfaction and confidence came from vaccination,” said lead author Bernd Raffelhüschen, from the University of Freiburg.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist 

Family also added stress to people’s lives this year, with the authors pointing to the stress of school closures. “In normal times, children are lucky charms. But in times of Covid, school-age children cost their parents an average of 0.21 satisfaction points.”

The effect of lockdowns on happiness was also seen in scores on leisure time. The average score in this category plummeted to 5.0 points – before the pandemic, it stood at 7.21 points.

Discontent Berliners

The German state with the lowest level of happiness was the capital Berlin, which scored 6.2 – way below the national average.

The authors put that down to the fact that so many self-employed and creative types live in Berlin. These people were often hardest hit by the Covid shutdowns.

For the study, commissioned by Deutsche Post, the Allensbach Institute interviewed more than 8,400 people throughout Germany in a representative survey. They were surveyed between January and June 2021.

SEE ALSO: Just how happy are people in Germany?


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