Considering the high level of fiscal and political instability found in neighboring nations amidst the Euro crisis, it may come as a surprise to hear that a new study finds that 46 percent of Germans say they are increasingly unable to enjoy anything due to the stress of everyday life and the feeling of being constantly reachable. The gloom is heightened among younger participants, as the study by Cologne market-research institute Rheingold finds 55 percent of young Germans claim to feel they have lost their ability to feel good.
Spiegel Online reports that it is not primarily the economic distress of the continent stressing the comparably well-off Germans, but rather "their own perfectionism."
During hours of individual and group interviews, the researchers analyzed how 60 subjects felt pleasure. They also scrutinized the results of a representative survey of 1,000 men and women commissioned by the liquor companies Diageo and Pernod Ricard.
Among survey respondents, 81 percent said that they experience pleasure best when they have managed to achieve something first. "As the saying goes, business before pleasure," said 61-year-old female participant Wiltrud.
Spiegel notes that the study's researchers have managed to identify a sequence of steps that typically lead to enjoyment for Germans, which they have named "pleasure DNA." Step 1: feeling you have earned something. Step 2: preparation for the longed-for pleasure. Step 3: letting go and clearing the mind. It is this final steps that comes most difficult.
Many Germans apparently lack crucial components to this "pleasure DNA." Though some 91 percent of the study participants said that pleasure makes life worthwhile, only 15 percent could recall moments in which they were able to forget their worries and feel truly happy.
"Our joy gene is increasingly defective - we've forgotten how to enjoy ourselves," say researchers. The study found that additional frustration can be linked to more intimate obstacles uncovered in the interviews, including the inability of many Germans to enjoy intercourse without distraction from raunchy images running through their mind.
"This results in the requirement to cut a good figure even during sex," says researchers. "That is to say, holding in their bellies instead of enjoying the moment."
Finally, the study finds that jealousy plays a role in impeding the ability of many Germans to enjoy life.
"Many think, 'man, how does he do it,'" Rheingold psychologist Ines Imdahl tells Spiegel. "When we get agitated about the Greeks' high pensions and ample vacation days, naturally pleasure-jealousy plays a role."
However, is the southern European way of life something that Germans would strive for?
"That doesn't suit us," Imdahl says.