Are there any risks of cuts when shopping at supermarkets in the future? How long can you still afford the rent? The fears of German citizens this year are primarily determined by money worries, as shown by the long-term study “The Fears of Germans”, which was published on Thursday.

According to the representative survey, the fear of sharply rising living costs is the number one concern. Almost two thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed said they were afraid of rising prices.

Concerns about a more expensive life also landed in second and third place in the rankings: Six out of ten Germans (60 percent) are afraid that housing will become unaffordable, and 57 percent are worried that the state will permanently increase taxes or cut benefits.

The survey “The Fears of Germans” has been regularly commissioned by R V Insurance for more than 30 years and is considered a small seismograph of sensitivities surrounding politics, the economy, family and health. For this year’s survey, around 2,400 people aged 14 and over were interviewed by pollsters between June and August – i.e. before the new attacks on Israel.

What are Germans most afraid of?

According to the information, the fear of rising living costs is regularly at the top of the greatest fears, including last year. Germany recorded the highest inflation since the founding of the Federal Republic. Around one in six Germans say they can barely pay their living expenses because of high inflation, as a recent Yougov survey for Postbank showed.

Even if the cost of living concerns Germans most – compared to the previous year, there was a slight decrease on the scale (minus 2 percentage points). “People have gotten used to it,” said political scientist Isabelle Borucki when presenting the results in Berlin. Borucki accompanied the study as a consultant.

Looking at the overall results, she said: “That doesn’t mean that we are dealing with fundamentally anxious people in the group surveyed,” explained Borucki. “People are more anxious because everything is happening at once.” Inflation, immigration, wars – all of this causes grief. The most significant decline (minus 6 percentage points) occurred in fears of a worse economic situation. This could be because your own concerns play a more important role than the general situation, explained the political scientist.

Fear related to migration

Compared to 2022, two fears have become particularly great: the fear that Germans and German authorities could be overwhelmed by refugees (plus 11 percentage points) and the fear that coexistence in Germany could be affected by a further influx of migrants ( plus 10 percentage points). The fears take fourth and twelfth place in the ranking.

Many people sought protection in Germany because of various global conflicts, for example from Ukraine, said Borucki. The overloading of municipalities has been discussed for months. “This is also associated with a certain increased fear of other, so-called illegal immigrants.” There are currently some local bottlenecks in accommodating refugees.

We know from migration research that concerns “about scarce goods” also play a role in fears regarding immigration, said Borucki – for example, that housing, care and social services could be used by refugees and then be at risk.

What do experts say?

Psychologist André Ilcin confirms this. Existential worries led to helplessness and constant fear, he told the German Press Agency. This also makes those affected more susceptible to racism: “If they have to see for themselves how they can stay afloat, then their willingness to give up decreases.” If people then heard that there were people who would probably get everything for free, fears about migration would become stronger.

Sensational headlines or false statements and exaggerations, especially from right-wing politicians, reinforced this feeling. “We are constantly bombarded with negative headlines. This turns an irrational fear into an actual fear,” explained the psychotherapist and added: “Everything that is unknown scares us.” That’s why some people are afraid of things that haven’t happened yet. A confrontation with the unknown would help to reduce fears.

The survey results show that trust in politics is declining. Every second (51 percent) German citizen fears that politicians will be overwhelmed by their tasks. Compared to the previous year, the worry has moved up four places and is in sixth place in the fears ranking. According to Borucki, citizens expect sustainable solutions from the state that are clearly communicated.

Study “The Fears of the Germans”