The path to wellbeing

December 2014

Candlelight, the aromas of mince pies, mulled wine and the Christmas tree pine needles: the very thought of the run up to Christmas fills many with warmth and joy. In an ideal world, Advent is the perfect opportunity for contemplation. It is a time for relaxing peacefully in comfort at home and indulging ourselves in whatever makes us feel good. However, it is not just during these cold, dark days that Germans value time at home. It ranks first in a list of factors for wellbeing in general. The same is true for Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA, where the majority place great value on spending time at home to achieve a sense of wellbeing. Conversely, in France and Spain, the most popular choice is spending time with relatives. These are the results of an eight-country study in which consumers were asked to name the activities that play a major role in their personal wellbeing.

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Closing the front door and putting your feet up to shut out the world around you for a short while after getting home from a long day at work: at 78%, spending time at home is an important factor in wellbeing for the majority of Germans. It tops the list of activities in a study undertaken by the GfK Verein and GfK Switzerland focused on “relevance to wellbeing” within the framework of their study on “Self Care”. In addition to our private sphere in the home, an active social life also represents an important aspect of wellbeing for most respondents. Socializing with friends was very, or at least quite, important to 68% of Germans and is therefore ranked second, just behind spending time at home.

Increase your wellbeing: vacations and the internet facilitate Relaxation

Escape the daily grind of working and discover that vacation mood: every now and again a break is needed to ensure a sense of all-round wellbeing. Many Germans believe time off from their daily routines is vital, with 62% expressing the view that a vacation is very, or quite, important when it comes to wellbeing. However, not everyone can relax by surfing down at the beach – some prefer to do their surfing on the internet. With this in mind, 62% of respondents opined that spending time online for relaxation is important. In this regard, media in general play a major role in personal wellbeing. Reading a good book was seen as a vital part of successful relaxation for 55% of respondents, while one in two Germans listed watching TV or movies and listening to music as factors for wellbeing.

Family, sport and going out all contribute to personal wellbeing

Spending time with family was named by 49% of respondents as something that makes them happy. Almost as many Germans (45%) include outdoor sports as a factor that is beneficial, while 42% of respondents like to get comfortable on the sofa and read the newspaper or a magazine. Nearly 30% stated that a shopping trip was also good for them. Going to the movies or enjoying a good meal in a restaurant made around 20% of all respondents feel good. Playing computer games and going to the gym are ways to achieve a sense of wellbeing for 16% and 15% of respondents, respectively.

Men and women in agreement on the top three

Men and women are largely in agreement when it comes to listing important factors for wellbeing. Both listed time spent at home, socializing with friends and taking a well-deserved vacation most often as the key factors for securing a sense of wellbeing – even if, on the whole, women place more importance on the first two factors than men. In terms of media preferences, there are greater discrepancies. In general, men are happier than women to spend time relaxing by surfing the internet. By contrast, women prefer to get stuck into an exciting book or listen to music.

As far as the different age groups are concerned, time spent at home is once again top of the list – with one exception: socializing with friends is the most important activity for those aged between 20 and 30. However, going to the gym, seeing a movie or playing computer games are also high on the list for these younger respondents.

Country comparison: Swedes love their homes…

Similarities emerge when the various factors for wellbeing in different countries are compared. The top four activities named are the same for every country surveyed. However, the share of respondents does occasionally differ markedly according to nationality. Spending time at home is particularly important to Germans, but also for the majority of Americans, Brits, Swedes and the Swiss. In Sweden, this factor was in fact important for 80% of respondents. France and Spain diverge from the norm slightly, where spending time with relatives is valued by the greater majority of the population. This factor is highly placed among respondents from the UK and USA, but languishes in mid-table for Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. Spending time with relatives was less highly ranked by Italian respondents than might have been assumed, with vacations, spending time at home and socializing with friends on an equal footing in their top three. The Swedes and the Swiss have the greatest preference for meeting up with friends. On the subject of vacations, the largest discrepancy came with the low rating in the USA.

The French love restaurants, Italians are passionate about sport and Americans like to hit the Shops

To the French, escaping the boundaries of their own four walls in search of indulgence elsewhere is not just important in terms of vacations. It will come as little surprise that dining out takes higher priority in France than in other countries. Every third French respondent specified eating as an im-portant activity for wellbeing. Gastronomic traditions may be a little different in the USA than in France, but nearly as many Americans also like to dine out. Anyone wanting to burn off some of those calories after enjoying a good meal, may find that outdoor sports can help. In terms of wellbeing, this does not only apply to the French, but also to the Italians and Swiss: one in two respondents in these three countries agreed that outdoor exercise improves wellbeing. Lifting weights, running on a treadmill or using other fitness equipment is seen as vital for wellbeing by nearly a third of respondents from Italy, Sweden and the USA. Going to the gym therefore contributes more significantly to a sense of wellbeing for people in these countries than in other nations. It is apparent that Americans can be easily persuaded to hit the shops instead of the gym. An above-average proportion of American respondents expressed the opinion that shopping is important for wellbeing. In comparing responses from different countries, it is the Americans and the Brits who place the greatest value on consumerism as a feel good factor.

Media consumption: browsing the internet up north; reading and listening to music down south

A look at media consumption also throws up discrepancies in preferences between the various countries surveyed. Although it may be an important tool for the wellbeing of Germans, the internet does not feature highly on the lists of respondents from each country. At 63% and 61% respectively, respondents from Sweden and the UK agree with Germans, while it appears that Italians and Spaniards turn more readily to literature. Respondents from France, Switzerland and the USA declared their preference for music most often. In the USA, 59% of respondents stated that watching TV and films is an elementary part of garnering a sense of personal wellbeing. This activity is of greater importance only to the Brits, of whom 61% are of the opinion that films and TV represent a vital part of wellbeing.

The French are foodies, Italians are seemingly a little vain, taking care to maintain their appearance, while Americans are often associated with a large appetite for consumerism. There are many clichés regarding typical characteristics of other countries. Perhaps slightly surprisingly, this study does in fact mirror some of those clichés when factors for wellbeing are investigated on a country to country basis. Karl Heinz Karius is responsible for a clever little saying, which can be found online: “To say that all clichés are inherently false is in itself a cliché” (© KarlHeinz Karius (*1935), originator, human and ad consultant; Source: »WortHupferl-Edition«, WortHupferl-Verlag).

Data source: GfK Verein (Study “Self Care”, March 2014)

If you have any queries concerning this article, please contact Claudia Gaspar, GfK Verein.

For any further queries regarding GfK Compact, please contact Claudia Gaspar, e-mail:

December 2014