Stay Calm, Germany!

Parent Category: Resiliency Reader eNewsletter Category: Winter 2014 - Resiliency Reader Index
Frankfurt Skyline wikimedia commons, author: _basquiat_

One of the biggest health insurance companies in Germany (Techniker Krankenkasse) has recently published a comprehensive study about the level of stress and its causes — with very interesting results and new insights.

According to the study the stress level in Germany is definitely increasing: two thirds of the participants in the study feel that they have more stress today than they had three years ago. The main source for this is their work life. But the high expectations they set themselves are the second biggest reason. So stress obviously does not only result from outside factors but also from personal attitudes. Further reasons lie in the private life, like personal conflicts, illness in the family, worries about finances and the care for home and children.

At the workplace many people feel they have too big a workload (65%) and not enough time (62%) for their tasks. That means that two thirds of the working people are experiencing chronic stress. On the other hand 71% of the participants in the study report to like their work and describe it as an important factor in their lives. So to have a meaningful job is certainly a protective factor and part of the resiliency needed to tackle the daily stress. Of the people who feel seldom or never stressed, 85% liked their job.

There appears to be a marked difference in the sources and results of stress in German men and women. More women than men feel stressed (63% vs. 52%) and more women suffer from chronic stress. Even in seemingly modern times women take on most of the responsibility for the family (housekeeping and raising of children). German women feel more stress in their family lives than at the workplace. Many women have an attitude of perfectionism and very high expectations of themselves. And since housework is never really finished they never feel that they have done enough.

This means that women have to work on different angles of their personalities and attitudes than men if they want to find a good way to handle stress. For professionals working in the field it might be interesting to think of different methods of stress-management to teach to men and women respectively. The question follows if there are perhaps aspects of resiliency that work differently for men and women?

Another important source of stress are conflicts in the private life or at work. Twenty percent suffer from conflicts with their colleagues or their boss. Usually conflicts have a strong emotional aspect which is more difficult to cope with than just differences in opinion. So ongoing conflicts at work are a major source of stress. To alleviate this, leadership-programs should include problem solving and conflict resolution, since managers are responsible for making a team work well together. And since it is such a wide spread problem it could be useful to train the employees as well to handle their problems and conflicts in a more productive and solution-oriented way. In my experience many people lack sufficient ability to solve problems in a systematic and positive way.

The study confirms the feeling of many people that stress levels are increasing. At the same time it offers possibilities and ideas to deal with the problem. On the side of the employers, workloads should be examined and adjusted and adequate training for managers and employees offered. The employees themselves should examine if their own attitudes are really helpful and learn effective strategies to deal with problems and conflicts.

In Germany, employers are responsible for the physical and mental well-being of their staff. The legislation regarding health and safety at work has been specified last year to include the mental well-being of employees as well. The German government has recognized that chronic work-related stress is a major health problem and puts more pressure on employers to reduce stress and help their staff to cope well.

(Source: "Bleib locker, Deutschland - TK-Studie zur Stresslage der Nation" [Stay calm, Germany - TK-study on the situation of stress in the nation], 2013)

Submitted by Julia Scharnhorst, Certified Resiliency Trainer, Germany

Correspondence address:
Dipl.-Psych. Julia Scharnhorst MPH
Health Professional Plus
Am Redder 11, 22880 Wedel, Germany
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