What do politicians fear most?
Anxiety researcher Borwin Bandelow : "Confidence in the state has been shaken"
Donald Trump, immigration, excessive demands on the state - these are the greatest fears of Germans this year. This is the result of the study "Die Ängste der Deutschen 2018", which will be presented this Thursday in Berlin. For 27 years, scientists have been investigating what Germans are most afraid of on behalf of R & V-Versicherung. Last year, terrorism and political extremism were at the top of the top scare list. This year people are less afraid of it, but the fear of migration has increased significantly.
Professor Bandelow, are Germans more fearful than other nations?
No. Basically, people in the north are more fearful than in the south. In Norway, for example, people are much more fearful than people on the equator. In my theory, the fearful used to survive better in northern climes because fear drove them to prepare better for winter than the unconcerned did.
So fear is a good thing?
Yes, many thousands of years ago we would have died out without the survival advantage of fear.
Are the North Germans more fearful than the Bavarians or Swabians?
There are no studies on this. But that's right from the feeling. The East Frisians are probably more concerned than people who live in southern Baden.
You speak of concerns. What is the difference to fear?
Fear is a feeling that triggers a physical reaction: sweating, racing heart, dizziness - like in a panic attack. But if you read about a terrorist attack or a knife attack in the newspaper in the morning, you won't get a panic attack, but start to worry. You then frown, but don't get a racing heart as a result.
Do you have to deal with fears differently than with worries and concerns?
Naturally. The two things have to be separated. Anxiety disorders can be treated with psychotherapy and medication. Anxiety patients usually have unreal fears, for example of narrow elevators. Or they have social fears of embarrassing themselves in a certain situation. Such fears affect around 15 percent of the population. However, fear patients are no more afraid of terrorism, crime and natural disasters than other people, the usual worried people.
Can concerns also be addressed?
Of course, that's not that easy. You can't just pour sedatives into the drinking water.
Many people fear that immigration will overburden politics and authorities. Are the Germans losing confidence in the state?
Unfortunately, you have to say that. In fact, the authorities, for example in the case of Anis Amri or the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, have failed across the board. For many, confidence in the state has been shaken. That triggers fears.
What could politics do about it?
Politicians can have a calming effect on the population by declaring, for example, that terrorist attacks are tragic, but not particularly frequent. However, politicians also have to do a balancing act. For example, there are subjective fears of too much immigration among the population. They have even increased recently. Politicians have to take this seriously and cannot simply say: It will be all right with the foreigners. Anyone who says that need not even stand for election. At the same time, however, a politician has to stick to the facts, because otherwise he will further fuel fears with populism.
The "refugee summer 2015" was three years ago. Why are fears about refugees and immigration still growing?
The topic remains topical. People are more afraid of new, unknown things than of known dangers. One example is the bird flu outbreak in Asia some time ago. Five people died in Indonesia. There was not a single death here, but the whole country was in a state of turmoil. It was a new danger that was also considered to be uncontrollable. Many also see the issue of immigration as new and uncontrollable. Truck attacks such as those in Nice and Berlin are also perceived as uncontrollable, as are knife attacks such as those recently committed by refugees. There are just too many trucks and everyone has a kitchen knife in their closet.
So, are these fears about feeling in control?
Yes, we have no control over whether such tragic events take place. But it is also important that we perceive the danger as new. How high the risk of a knife attack is statistically does not matter. We hardly ever think about cardiovascular diseases, although 43 percent of us, i.e. millions of people, will die from such an illness in the coming years - and not by a knife.
So the heart attack is no longer scary because it has always existed?
Exactly. The 9,000 fatal leisure accidents every year have also been factored into the price of people and do not think about them. Because they do not correctly assess the situation, there is often an excessive fear of relatively minor risks such as a terrorist attack. In addition, a heart attack hits you at 70, a knife attack or a bomb attack can hit you in your mid-20s.
Compared to the previous year, however, the fear of terrorism has fallen sharply.
Yes, last year terrorism was still the greatest fear among Germans. At that time, the attacks in Paris were still fresh in our memories, they had a massive impact on our thinking. However, there were no major attacks in Europe for a while. People believe the risk has decreased - although the security situation has not changed.
Are the Germans getting more and more anxious?
Overall not. Rather, people's fear remains the same for thousands of years, there is always a certain level of fear that is inherited over generations. Nevertheless, I am asked anew every year: Has the fear increased? The same question for 30 years - I think it's somehow part of the fear of Germans.
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