Berlin. War in Europe, more than two years of pandemic and omnipresent climate change, the period marked by several global crises does not particularly mark young people. This is shown by a representative survey of 14 to 29 year olds conducted by young researchers Simon Schnetzer and Klaus Hurrelmann, which was presented on Tuesday. The war that broke out in Europe with Russia’s attack on Ukraine on February 24 has become the biggest concern for young people.
The trend study “Youth in Germany” is now presented every six months for the fourth time. A total of 1021 young people were interviewed in March 2022. The result: the new fear of war does not mean that other fears have diminished. For example, concerns about climate change, inflation and the division of society as well as the attitude towards life that Corona continues to affect are formative for those interviewed.
“We have a superposition of crises and this burden for young people has become very heavy”, summarizes Schnetzer. Therefore, this layering is also increasingly straining the mental health of young people, it was said.
Fear of climate change takes a back seat
According to the results of the survey, the biggest concerns of the generation are represented in figures as follows: The subject of war in Europe, which concerns 68% of people, has moved to first place. 46% are very afraid that the war in Ukraine could spread to all of Europe. The fear of climate change which previously dominated (55%) now comes in second place. Concerns about inflation (46%), social divisions in society (40%) and an economic crisis (39%) are also present.
A generation sliding from crisis to crisis? Indeed, researchers have been seeing young people in “permanent crisis mode” for years. As part of the study, Schnetzer explains that the elderly had already experienced the economic crisis of 2008, the major accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 and the so-called refugee crisis of 2015 as formative.
The generation’s mental health has recently deteriorated, war is another major emotional burden in the already tense atmosphere. Nearly half (45%) of respondents said they felt stressed.
Experts describe the figures collected as frightening
The list of most common psychological stresses is followed by apathy (35%), exhaustion and boredom (32% each) and depression and despondency (27%). 13% experience impotence, 7% even have suicidal thoughts. According to experts, these figures are alarming. And a corresponding response, for example through increased psychological support in schools, is important.
However, the new “Youth in Germany” study also sends a cautiously optimistic signal: according to the authors, the general mood of the younger generation is surprisingly positive despite everything. This is supported by the fact that most respondents expect a good future for themselves despite all the burdens.
Nevertheless, the inner restlessness and insecurity of young people cannot be ignored. Although most of them believe that they can master their own lives despite adverse circumstances, they see major conflicts regarding the economic, social and political development of Germany. Hurrelmann sees in it a “typical attitude of youth, robust, optimistic”, below “it is collapsing”. (dpa)