DKV Report 2023: Germans are not standing up for their health
This article has been first published by ERGO Group and has been reprinted with kind permission. For the original source, click here.
This is the seventh representative study of German health and movement behaviour conducted by German health insurer DKV (Deutsche Krankenversicherung AG) and the German Sport University Cologne (Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln), under the scientific direction of Ingo Froböse. Particularly striking is the statistic that, on average, each person in Germany spends 9.2 hours a day sitting, which is half an hour longer than during the pandemic (2021: 8.7). For 18–29 year olds, the figure is actually more than 10 hours.
Not even one person in five meets the criteria for a healthy lifestyle
Just 17% of respondents achieve the benchmark for an all-round healthy life in all five of the following areas: physical activity, nutrition, smoking, alcohol and stress perception. Meeting the benchmark means they get enough exercise, have a balanced diet, avoid nicotine and alcohol and can manage any stress that arises. In comparison with 2021, therefore, while it is true that more people are leading an all-round healthy life (2021: 11%), the level is still low.
Women are well out in front: whereas one woman in five (20%) meets all benchmarks, only every seventh man can manage the same (14%). The evaluation by federal state shows that the inhabitants of Rhineland-Palatinate/Saarland and Baden-Württemberg most frequently achieve all benchmarks (21% in each case). The back marker is North Rhine-Westphalia: only every eighth citizen in this state achieves all the benchmarks for a healthy lifestyle (12%). Clemens Muth, Chairman of the Board of Management of DKV, summarises the results: “The findings in the DKV Report clearly show that German are reluctant to stand up for their health. Not even one German in five meets the criteria for a healthy life. As a health insurer, we see the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle.” He added that, in addition to being a non-smoker and maintaining social contacts, the best ingredients for a healthy life were regular physical activity, a balanced diet and ensuring adequate time for rest and recuperation.
Germans remain glued to their chairs
The time spent sitting is still rising unchecked: the average time each German spends seated over the course of a working day has been steadily rising over the last seven years. In 2023, the figure was 554 minutes per day, which is half an hour longer than the result in the last survey (2021: 523 minutes). People in the east of the country spend less time sitting than in the west. The population of Brandenburg spend the least time sitting (8.4 hours). With almost 10 hours sitting on workdays, North Rhine-Westphalia again holds the worst record. “Reducing the time you spend sitting each day by engaging in physical activity can substantially reduce your mortality risk,” explains Ingo Froböse, Professor at the German Sport University Cologne. He calls on everyone to “stand up for your health!”
More than every second person does not have a healthy approach to stress management
Despite an improvement on 2021, just over half of respondents still fail to achieve the benchmark stress. (2023: 48%, 2021: 40%). 28% consider their stress level is high or very high. The latter category applies in particular to women (32%) and is less frequent for men (25%). Age also plays a role: evaluation by age group shows that people who are in what is known as the “rush hour of life”, aged between 30 and 45 years, least frequently achieve the benchmark stress. In this life phase, in which responsibilities such as career, childcare and looking after family members often intersect, there is little time to manage stress levels. It is therefore no surprise, but all the more alarming, that just 35% of 30–45 year olds achieve the benchmark stress and only 10% lead an all-round healthy life.
25% of respondents report a critical level of mental wellbeing
The average value for subjective wellbeing among respondents in this year’s DKV Report is 62 from a possible 100 percentage points (women 61, men 64). However, every fourth respondent reports a low subjective level of mental wellbeing, with less than 50 percentage points. This is a value that is not only considered critical by scientists, but can also be seen as the first sign of a developing depression. With a score of 29%, women more frequently have a lower subjective level of mental wellbeing than male respondents with 22%. Regular physical activity is a possible path to improving wellbeing. The results of the DKV Report also indicate that there is a positive correlation between adequate physical activity and subjective wellbeing: a person who feels well is more physically active and, conversely, if you engage in more physical activity, you feel better.
Too few respondents achieve the recommendations of the World Health Organization for physical activity and muscle strengthening
Some 72% (2021: 70%; 2018: 69%) meet the benchmark activity (endurance-based physical activity), but only 40% of respondents meet the recommendation of the World Health Organization for muscle activity (at least twice a week), a benchmark that has been included for the first time in this year’s DKV Report. “Older people in particular benefit greatly from regular muscle training because, without training, muscle mass starts to decrease after the age of 30. We can counter this with muscle training and, in doing so, even build up a protection factor against needing nursing care in old age,” says Ingo Froböse. Only 38% meet the combined physical activity recommendations for endurance and muscle activity. Everyday physical activity and structured endurance and muscle training are among the most valuable and effective strategies against many chronic lifestyle diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular illness, as well as against various cancers, musculoskeletal diseases (e.g. arthrosis, osteoporosis) and mental illnesses like depression.
Conscious breathing and active work breaks offer potential for recuperation
Breaks and conscious breathing offer considerable potential for maintaining health. “Everyone needs time to take a deep breath and relax,” Clemens Muth points out. Yet only little more than a fifth (23%) of all respondents consciously control their breathing in specific situations. Women engage more frequently in conscious and controlled breathing than men (28% versus 18%). The same is true for taking active recovery breaks during the working day: activities such as going for a walk (70%), fitness exercises/sport (67%) and even relaxation techniques (47%) are frequently rated as very good or good – yet they are only seldom used. Just 19% of respondents go for a walk, 5% do fitness exercises/sport and a mere 4% frequently use relaxation techniques in their day-to-day work.
The current survey results in the DKV Report underline the need for holistic prevention strategies. “Without comprehensive and coordinated measures from the fields of politics, business and society, we are heading straight for both a socio-economic and a health crisis,” warns Ingo Froböse. “Physical activity must become an everyday routine again, and sport – in all its different varieties – needs to regain its place at the heart of society.”
About the DKV Report
The 2023 study was once again conducted and evaluated, on behalf of DKV Deutsche Krankenversicherung AG, by the Institute of Movement Therapy and Movement-oriented Prevention and Rehabilitation at the German Sport University Cologne (Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln) in conjunction with the Institute for Sport Sciences at the University of Würzburg. This is the latest in a series of surveys that has been carried out for more than 13 years. Over the period from 13 February to 16 March 2023, the opinion research institute Ipsos conducted a representative survey of the living habits of a total of 2,800 people throughout Germany based on structured and computer-assisted telephone interviews. At least 200 citizens were interviewed in each German state (Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, and Lower Saxony and Bremen, were combined).
This year's DKV Report and the presentation to the media conference is available for download at www.ergo.com/DKV-Report
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DKV has been a leading force in the field of health insurance for more than 95 years, providing a wide range of need-based and innovative products. As a specialist insurer, it offers a comprehensive range of health and long term care insurance products and associated health services to people insured under both private and public systems. A further core competence of DKV is the provision of high-quality medical support. In 2022, the company had a total premium income of €5.1bn. More at www.dkv.com