According to a survey conducted by Austrian research psychologist Tatjana Schnell, an unexpectedly large proportion of Westerners feel that their lives have little meaning, and they don’t really care, reports Miller-McCune. Sampling more than 600 Germans, Schneller’s research found that “35 percent [of the sample] were ‘existentially indifferent,’ those who ‘neither experience their lives as meaningful nor suffer from this lack of meaning’,” and only 10 percent of that group were bothered by their own existential apathy.
I don’t think I’d necessarily equate “Germans” with “Westerners,” but I can’t say I’m particularly surprised by this. Then again, it may depend on what the meaning of “meaning” is. If your particular definition of self demands a satisfying romantic relationship and the job of your dreams and getting paid something like NBA rookie scale, your life might seem less meaningful than a box full of old press releases but I’d give odds that you’d be concerned about it.
The academics identified 26 “sources of meaning” in their study, and noted that the indifferent lacked sources like love, social commitment and unison of nature. They were especially low in self-knowledge, spirituality, explicit religiosity and generativity, even compared to those in a crisis.
And, says Dr Schnell:
Without commitment to sources of meaning, life remains superficial. But superficiality is not necessarily a state of suffering.
Sometimes it’s a way to make a living.