Contentment Ranking Northern Germans Are the Happiest
According to a new report, the divide in happiness between people in the former East and West Germany is growing. Though experts don't know why, residents of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein are the most content, while the saddest live in economically depressed Brandenburg.
According to the 2013 "Happiness Atlas" -- a report on the contentment levels of Germans based on data from the German Institute for Economic Research -- the happiest people in Germany live in the northern state of Schleswig Holstein, situated between Hamburg and the Danish border. On a scale of 1 to 10, Schleswig-Holsteiners rate their satisfaction with life at 7.31, significantly above the German average of 7. Overall, Germany comes in at a respectable eighth place among 30 European nations.
At the other end of the scale is Brandenburg, a predominantly rural state in eastern Germany which surrounds Berlin. With unemployment running at 50 percent above the national average and disposable income 14 percent below it, the result is hardly surprising.
But prosperity alone is no reliable predictor of happiness. Schleswig-Holstein is comparatively poor by West German standards, while affluent Bavaria trails in the bottom third of the rating. As Professor Bernd Raffelhüschen from the University of Freiburg, who steered the compilation of the Atlas, put it at a press conference about the report, "This high level of satisfaction is basically inexplicable." It could be related to the state's proximity to Denmark, which, according to the United Nations' World Happiness Report, is the world's happiest country.
Low Contentment in Former East
Over two decades since German reunification the clearest divide in happiness remains between the former East and West, the latter of which has long had been more content. Following years of convergence, the gap actually widened in 2013. This year's study was also the first to specifically examine life satisfaction among the country's immigrant communities. It revealed that immigrant communities' experiences are actually far closer to the national average than the overall experience of people living in the former East Germany.
The study upon which the report is based has followed 11,000 households nationwide for the past 25 years, collecting hard data along with subjective assessments on family life, work, health, income, leisure and housing.
But overall, Germans may be more resigned to their circumstances than their foreign peers. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's 2013 Better Life Index -- a measure of the economic and social well-being of countries around the world -- gives Germany mediocre scores for civic engagement and public health, while praising education and work-life balance.