German Workforce is especially stressed out. One more reason to bring Positive Psychology to Deutschland

Stress - Germans - ADPThe European branch of HR consulting firm ADP has surveyed some 11,000 employees across eight countries of the continent (link to press release). One of the striking results:

Despite (Or maybe: Due to?) a distinctly flourishing economy which displays an unemployment level at its lowest since the time before the reunification, Germany’s workforce seems to be utterly stressed out. 50% of workers report they are “frequently stressed” at work. That puts us in second place behind the Polish. On the other end of the continuum, stress levels are the lowest in the Netherlands*. Now what is happening here? Are my fellow countrymen really all that stressed? Or is just more accepted, or even en vogue, to report that one is stressed out?

Because the funny thing is: Several other studies show that Germans work considerably less hours per year compared to almost any other nation. Most of us can take between 24 and 30 days of vacation, there’s countless bank holidays – and working hours are pretty acceptable on average (see some more details here). So, by any means, this should be a workers’ paradise. Still, 50% heavily complain about the status quo.

My guess: it’s a question of mindsets, of attention, and focus. I’ve already written several posts on how German culture has an inclination towards “loving the negative”, and how we are overly anxious on average (e.g., how German lacks some positive words; or how studying Positive Psychology to me seemed like a course in being Un-German). Feeling overly stressed at work when we really live in a sort of land of milk and honey seems like a relative of “German Angst” or “Weltschmerz”.

But beware, my fellow countrymen: Positive Psychology will definitely come to a place somewhere near you. Even if I have to do it all by myself…

 

*According to the cliché, that must be because of all that dope they smoke over there…

Trials and Tribulations: How much Negativity do we need for a Positive Life?

Positive Psychology is not only about smiley-happy faces and rose-colored glasses. I´ve already written about Post-Traumatic Growth, and the Japanese art of Kintsukuroi as a metaphor for the state of flourishing after experiencing adversity. Yesterday, my fellow Mappster and “Queen of Sisu”, Emilia Lahti, shared a study on Facebook that sheds additional light on these issues. The question is:

Is a Life without Struggles and Hardships a desirable one?

The short answer is: probably not. In a study bearing the Nietzsche-inspired name Whatever Does Not Kill Us: Cumulative Lifetime Adversity, Vulnerability, and Resilience the researchers find that experiencing a moderate amount of “trials and tribulations” over one´s lifetime may foster resilience, resulting in advantages for mental health and well-being. Have a look at this table:

Lifetime AdversityWhat you see is data on a representative U.S. sample of more than 2.000 people. It shows the relationship between participant´s “Cumulative Lifetime Adversity” (CLA; people were asked for negative events in their life, e.g., serious illnesses, bereavement etc.) and several scores for mental health (Life Satisfaction) and its opposites (e.g., signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Precisely, you can see several U-shaped relationships, and one inverse-U-shaped one. The U-shaped ones depicts the relationship between CLA and signs for the absence of mental health, and the inverse shows the relationship between CLA and life satisfaction.

What it means: those people that display the highest levels of satisfaction and the lowest level of “symptoms” have experienced a moderate to average amount of adversity over their lifetime. High levels of adversity can really knock us down and leave us shattered. At the same time, having (almost) no prior experience with hardships can render us vulnerable to corresponding events in the future – and less satisfied with life in general.

So basically, Nietzsche was right. There is saying in Germany:

When you fall down: Stand up. Straighten your crown. Walk on.