A new survey aims to find out how Germany is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and how the everyday lives of German citizens are being affected.
“We therefore analyze their concern about how the coronavirus affects different areas of their life, and how they try to protect themselves against an infection,” study author Dr. Fabian Kirsch told us. “In our survey, we also ask the participants how well they feel informed about what is happening with the novel coronavirus and which media they use. We also track the acceptance of different measures for containment, such as the cancellation of events or the mandatory use of masks. To analyse trends during the pandemic, we have been conducting the survey at regular intervals since March.”
The survey, or BfR-Corona-Monitor, is primarily a descriptive tracking study, which is why the researchers try to collect their data as unbiased as possible. Their focus is to provide a snapshot of the current situation and the perception of the population in Germany. However, they do expect that the perception and behaviour of the population will be connected with the development of the situation in Germany.
“The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has the legal mandate to communicate about risks in Germany,” Dr. Kirsch told us. “Therefore, detailed knowledge on risk perception is crucial. In Germany, the coronavirus epidemic started in March with a rapid increase in infection rate. It was important to us to monitor the public opinion right from the start, since the epidemic had a huge impact on everyone: consumers, politicians, the economy, the media and, of course scientists. At a time when society is facing great challenges, it is important to know what moves people and how they think about what is happening. Since we have always published our results from each survey as quickly as possible, policymakers can use them as a basis for their decisions.”
The researchers have already looked at the results over time and have compared different age groups. They also plan to analyze the data further regarding possible correlations between different variables or additional groups.
“At the start of the crisis in March, 35 to 40 per cent of the respondents feared that an infection with the novel coronavirus would have severe consequences for their health,” Dr. Kirsch told us. “However, at the end of May, this number dropped down to 25 per cent. Currently, about one fifth of the respondents are worried about their personal economic situation. This could be related to the fact, that they are afraid of losing their job or having a lower income. We could also see that younger people (under the age of 40) are often more concerned about their economic situation, whereas older people (60 and over) are more worried about their health.”
In Germany, people are advised to adhere to the so-called “AHA-formula”, which entails keeping your distance from other people (“Abstand halten”), paying more attention on hygiene (“Hygiene beachten”) and wearing community masks (“Alltagsmasken tragen”). In the data, the researchers can see that a large number of people have accepted the national mask mandate and distance regulation, and that they have incorporated these measures into their daily lives. However, the number of people who reduce their encounters with friends and family has started to decline.
“It was remarkable to see how the overwhelming majority of the population accepted different containment measures imposed by the federal states and federal government,” Dr. Kirsch told us. “For example, just shortly after Germany had introduced a nationwide mandate to wear masks in public transport and stores in April, 86 per cent of respondents stated that they considered this an appropriate measure, even though this directly affected the daily routines of many people. These high numbers also indicate that there is still broad support amongst the population, even though there have been a few protests against those measures.”
Dr. Kirsch believes that once the pandemic is over, they will be able to look at the events as a whole and gain new insights into the life of the German population during an international health crisis.
“Long-term studies such as this one enable us to link retrospectively the influences of temporary events to social reactions like the acceptance of specific measures for containment,” Dr. Kirsch told us. “These insights are important to better deal with similar situations in the future.”
Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog: www.patriciatomasiblog.wordpress.com