Soaring prices for food, energy and services are exacerbating the problems and mental illness of millions of people. In an interview with FOCUS Online, the social physician Prof. Gerhard Trabert warns of a “significant increase” in anxiety disorders, panic attacks and depression.

Bread, butter, sausage, pasta, fruit, vegetables, petrol, gas, clothing – everything is becoming more expensive. Prices have been rising steadily for months, with no end in sight. According to a recent study by Allianz, food prices in Germany will increase by more than 10 percent this year. The price jumps in the supermarkets are still moderate, says trade expert Aurélien Duthoit from the credit insurer Allianz Trade. “The worst is yet to come for households.”

So the worst is yet to come? The rapid increase in the cost of living is already an existential problem for millions of Germans. More than one in three consumers (38 percent) will find it increasingly difficult to make a living from their own income, according to a representative survey commissioned by the credit agency Schufa. Only 57 percent stated that they had enough financial leeway if prices continued to rise.

The financial worries due to turbo inflation also affect the psyche of many people, warns Gerhard Trabert (65), Professor of Social Medicine and Social Psychiatry at the RheinMain University, in an interview with FOCUS Online.

The expert is convinced that mental illnesses such as “anxiety disorders, panic attacks, burnout symptoms and depression will increase significantly in both adults and children” due to the wave of inflation. The existential worries of many people led to “permanent stress” and had a negative impact on their mental life. Trabert on the phase of acute price increases: “It’s an absolutely extreme psychological pressure situation.” And he adds: “Being poor in a rich country is a traumatic experience!”

The victims of the cost explosion are in particular the recipients of state social benefits, including many single mothers and fathers, pensioners affected by poverty in old age, students, families with many children, people with a migration background, refugees and employees in the low-wage sector. The professor warns: “Poverty will increase massively. In addition to this concrete danger for the people affected, internal democracy is also endangered!”

Against this background, the non-party Trabert, who the left nominated in early 2022 as a candidate against the incumbent Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD), sharply criticizes politics. “The federal government shows no awareness of becoming active here”. Many of the measures adopted by the traffic light coalition to cushion the consequences of inflation would hardly help those affected and were therefore “completely inadequate”.

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Trabert therefore explains: “People who are affected by poverty, especially in a rich country, feel increasingly excluded, not noticed and not treated with respect and dignity.” The psychological reactions could be different, according to the expert. The four most common scenarios:

According to Trabert, there is only one way to free people suffering from inflation from the spiral of fear and pressure: “By giving people a financial livelihood that enables them to participate in social life.” They needed Financial support “to be able to feed oneself, to be able to pay rents, to be able to pay energy costs, to be able to use health care that treats diseases adequately at an early stage.” In addition, people “must be treated with respect and equality”. This should not happen “at some point”. The government must act “immediately”, according to Trabert.

Specifically, he demands: “The federal government must immediately increase the Hartz IV rate by at least 100 euros and also provide financial support to pay for energy costs.” This is not only a measure to cushion the consequences of inflation, but also to help stabilize our society .

Trabert: “People who no longer feel valued and treated with respect are more receptive to agitation that calls our democracy into question.” The presidential elections in France have shown very clearly that there can be a massive shift to the right in society if the prevailing politics ignore social inequality or accept it inactively. “During her election campaign, Marine Le Pen very intensively and consciously focused on the issue of loss of purchasing power, especially for socially disadvantaged French people, and thus generated a large influx of voters,” said the social medicine specialist to FOCUS Online.

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“It is important to protect free democracies from outside, from military attacks and oppressive mechanisms,” said Trabert. “But it is also important to protect democracies from within, to guarantee social peace in social interaction.” And this can only be done with the recognizable effort to achieve social justice, poverty reduction, educational justice and thus also distribution justice. “Social justice is the test of every free democracy”.

His commitment to the socially disadvantaged brought Gerhard Trabert a lot of recognition nationwide and brought him several awards, including the Federal Cross of Merit and the Paracelsus Medal, the highest award of the German medical profession. Trabert is the founder and chairman of the “Poverty and Health” association in Germany. He regularly drives through Mainz with the doctor’s mobile to provide medical help to the homeless and people without health insurance.