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Synthesis 2013 > Risk aversion is even more pronounced than in 2012

Risk aversion is even more pronounced than in 2012

In the present conditions, risk is increasingly perceived as a danger by the Europeans already surveyed in 2012: in the case of the French, Germans, Spanish, British, Italians and Polish, 62% now consider risk a ‘danger to be avoided’ (+6 points) rather than a stimulant (38%; -6 points). Only a minority now consider that risk is viewed positively in their country (40%; stable) or in the European Union (48%; -1), contrary to what they believe the case to be in the United States (77% think that risk is positively viewed there; -1) and to a lesser extent in Asia (51%; -1).

Europeans in the countries already surveyed in 2012 feel they currently take fewer risks than they did a year ago: last year 68% said they felt that in general they were people who took risks. This year, the percentage has fallen to 64% (-4 points). A majority still say they take risks, which is encouraging in some ways in that it is essential to take some risk, but at the same time it undoubtedly reflects Europeans’ growing sense of vulnerability: although they consider risk taking to be dangerous, many undoubtedly have the feeling that they take risks against their will.

European attitudes to risk remain ambivalent: although a majority considers that in order to succeed one should ‘be careful not to take too many risks’ (55%; -1) rather than ‘take a lot of risks’ (45%; +1), at the same time a majority of them consider that young people should be taught that in life ‘you must know how to take risks and be prepared to pay the price if you fail’ (58%). This sentiment is increasingly widespread (+4 points compared with 2012). Currently only 42% of respondents consider that in life ‘you must be very careful and not take risks if there is a price to be paid in the event of failure’ (-4 points). For a majority of Europeans, although risk taking should be measured, it is nonetheless necessary in order to progress. These findings overlay very diverse national attitudes whose tendencies are a useful key to understanding the present and future economic situation.

Risk aversion is even more pronounced than in 2012

Regards d'experts

guillemet début We think that the crisis is making us more risk averse. No, in general what we are seeing is that people only change their personal preferences over the long term. However, it is true that they take their short-term environment into consideration and plan ahead for their financial future. Today, expectations are more pessimistic. If we were able to better distinguish between what is really linked to tastes and preferences on the one hand, and on the other hand, the environment in which households operate, this would make it possible to better understand certain paradoxes between the various countries.

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guillemet début It is always at society’s two extremities that people take the most risks: at the bottom because people have nothing to lose, and at the top because they feel secure.

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guillemet début Our error in Europe is that we explore our differences without putting them into a global perspective. We would have to be able to rely on the same type of study on other continents. For instance, I'm not sure that regarding risk, the Americans are all that different from us.

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guillemet début We are very bad predictors of our future happiness. The same probably goes for risk. You can't tell as long as it hasn't happened, but the likelihood is you will get used to any new situation that arises. For instance, changes in the material quality of life have little impact on our subjective happiness because the brain gets used to things. People can retrieve the same level of personal satisfaction, even in the event of disability. By contrast, there are other types of events for which there is no “hedonic adaptation”, no resilience. For instance, if you lose your job or get a chronic disease, your routine is disrupted and you lose your sense of personal value, and this means you cannot return to your previous level of satisfaction.

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guillemet début Research shows that, in an equivalent situation (in terms of earnings, education, etc.), the French are less happy than people from other countries.There is a strongly cultural and subjective dimension to French pessimism.

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