Among the Swiss, 83 percent see self-determination as a fundamental need leading to satisfaction, optimism and reduced stress. But only six out of ten people in Switzerland really feel self-determined – a little more in old age and in the country, regardless of gender. Swiss Life's representative survey also shows that self-determination has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shaping one’s own life and being able to make free decisions is a universal human requirement. With its newly launched self-determination barometer, Swiss Life is analysing how widespread this positive feeling is and what factors are relevant to it. These are the most important results:

1. Happiness factor and fundamental need
Happiness factor and fundamental need – Self-determination and independence are a fundamental requirement in the life of 83 percent of Swiss people. The survey also makes it clear that self-determination is a key factor for our well-being and for our general outlook on life. If you are self-determined, you feel much happier in life, you are much more optimistic and much less stressed.

2. A divided society and hesitant optimism
six out of ten adults in Switzerland (61 percent) feel they enjoy self-determination overall. Moreover, around a third (36%) of respondents are confident that they will live more self-determined lives in ten years than they do today.

3. Self-determined during the Covid-19 pandemic
Self-determination has taken a remarkable step forward during the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the lockdown and clouded economic prospects, more people felt self-determined (61%) in April 2020 than before the crisis at the end of 2019 (56 percent). This is an indication that many people can also see the positive side of the standstill. However, the 35 percent of respondents who think the pandemic will affect them negatively now feel significantly less self-determined than in 2019. They fear they are in danger of losing control over their own lives as a result of the crisis.

4. A question of age, but not of gender
the older we are, the more self-determined we feel. While only 55 percent of 18- to 49-year-olds see themselves as independent, three out of four pensioners (65 plus) do so. Gender, on the other hand, has no influence: women (60 percent) and men (61 percent) feel equally self-determined.

5. Rural population is more self-determined
IPeople in the countryside (64 percent) feel more self-determined than people living in cities and surrounding areas (both 59 percent). Whereas in the Middle Ages people said "Stadtluft macht frei" (city air liberates), it is now rather the case that "country air makes you independent."

6. Financial knowledge creates independence
Money makes us more self-determined. However, even more important than your account balance is good financial knowledge and/or good financial planning. 68 percent of people with good financial knowledge feel self-determined, versus only 55 percent of people without such knowledge. Two out of three people without financial planning assume that they will have less or only the same amount of money when they retire. People with financial or pension planning, on the other hand, are more confident about their finances: one in two expect to have more financial opportunities at the time of retirement.

7. Switzerland not a special case
For once Switzerland is not a special case, but there is something like a “Western European” feeling of self-determination, as shown by the simultaneous surveys conducted by Swiss Life: people in Austria (64 percent) feel the most self-determined, followed by Germany (63 percent), Switzerland (61 percent) and France (59 percent). The French are only clearly more pessimistic when it comes to the medium-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic: 52 percent fear a negative impact in the next three years, whereas in the other countries only about a third of people do.

About the survey

On behalf of Swiss Life, the opinion research institute ValueQuest carried out a study on "self-determination" from 8 to 14 April 2020 and from 28 October to 18 November 2019. A total of around 1000 people between the ages of 18 and 79 were surveyed online in Switzerland. The Swiss Life self-determination barometer survey was conducted in France, Germany, Austria, the UK, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Singapore in addition to Switzerland.

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