Have a healthy New Year!

January 2012

Resolutions are as integral to the New Year as fireworks and Bleigießen (telling fortunes based on the shapes made by dropping molten lead into cold water). Even though many good intentions go up in smoke before the last rocket has been fired, the majority of Germans undertake to change something in their lives. Physical wellbeing is the leading focus. Germans plan to take care of their health and do something positive for themselves in 2012. Professional success is also important, but it is not the top priority.

The old year is over and 2012 lies ahead providing the perfect opportunity to take stock and make changes to the way of life. This is the case for around 70% of more than 2,000 Germans surveyed on their plans and resolutions for the New Year in December 2011 by GfK Marktforschung on behalf of GfK Verein. The survey question was left open allowing respondents to freely name any resolutions without prompts and regardless of areas of life to which they relate. The majority of participants had one particular goal, only 2% had not yet decided and 27% were not planning any specific changes for 2012.

Personal health is the top priority when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, with 40% of Germans hoping to improve their health to live in such a way that enables them to combat or avoid illnesses in future. More specifically, around 12% are kick-starting the New Year with a new fitness program and the intention to do more sport or exercise, preferably in the open air.

Traveling instead of smoking

A desire for more fresh air is also among the reasons why 8% of Germans hope to give up smoking. And, after indulging in cookies, Christmas dinner and other high calorie foods over the Christmas holidays, losing weight is also high on the list of New Year’s resolutions. In total, 10% of all consumers want to improve their bodies in 2012, either by losing weight (6%), and/or by eating more healthily (4%). But Germans are not only concerned with their figures and fitness, they also think about their jobs and careers. Good training, a suitable job and success at school and in the workplace are each mentioned by 8% as aims for the new year.

However, intentions relate more frequently to other aspects of private life rather than professional commitment. Relationships should become a higher priority for 13% of participants with 10% wanting to spend more time with their friends and loved ones in 2012. While 2% plan to start a family, 1% would like to make family life more harmonious and 12% of Germans would simply like to reduce stress and work less so that they have more time for themselves and can relax. A further 8% would like to take holidays in the coming year, some even planning a trip around the world.

Correspondingly, thoughts of saving money are rare. Only 4% already plan to limit their expenditure. In contrast, 6% are planning a large purchase such as furniture or a car.

Old and young: slowing down versus career

It is said that men and women are different in many respects, but choice of resolutions is surprisingly similar regardless of gender, although women tend to think more often of health than men and would like to take a more laid back approach in 2012. In contrast, men are slightly more concerned with their career and will focus on keeping their current job or finding a new one.

More significant differences become apparent when the age of the participants is taken into account. The desire to take care of one’s health increases with age. While only 9% of participants under the age of 35 feel they need to make adjustments in this area, this figure increases to 22% among the over-50s. 40% of participants over the age of 65 would like to do more for their health in 2012. The wish to reduce stress and work less also increases with age. Of the over-50s – who have a corresponding number of working years behind them – 17% hope for a more relaxing year. Individuals under 35 have other priorities. Good qualifications and success at work are the most important considerations for this age group. For individuals aged 14 to 24, this desire for a good job and a successful career even reaches the top of the ranking with 34%.

East German consumers: work is in second place

Differences emerging between age groups are partially mirrored in an East-West comparison. In eastern Germany, where the number of older individuals is higher, there is a greater focus on the topic of health. While only 19% of West Germans say that they would like to do more for their wellbeing, 27% of East Germans say the same. 
The differing economic situation is, however, the reason behind the East and West having varied priorities regarding employment. The question of future career occupies East Germans significantly more than consumers in West Germany. 14% of respondents in the East aim to keep their jobs or to find new employment or training in 2012. Consequently this topic is in second place. The situation is different in the western federal states, with not even half as many individuals concerned with the question of employment. Instead, the second place on the list is occupied by a desire for more movement and sport and a more balanced life.

More time, less stress, more sport – all these resolutions have one thing in common: they are made quickly, usually in earnest, and yet are difficult to put into practice. Bookshops offer countless volumes which hope to help consumers keep their resolutions and every year newspapers and magazines focus on the topic of “willpower”. Individuals can now also be reminded of their resolutions online. If none of this helps, perhaps the saying supposedly uttered by the German political scientist Lothar Schmidt will: “Good intentions are very popular. They may be reused as often as you like.”

Data Source: GfK Verein

If you have any queries concerning this article or Compact, please contact Claudia Gaspar,  e-mail: hello@nim.org.

January 2012