Comparing Concerns: What Keeps Us Up At Night

Comparing Concerns: What Keeps Us Up At Night

What keeps you up at night? There’s probably more than just one thing: From anxieties about rising utility bills to worries about our personal health, to concerns about the wellbeing of our family, there’s a lot to think about.

In Nielsen’s fourth-quarter consumer confidence survey, fears about terrorism escalated to new highs in North America (27%) and Europe (22%), trumping the economy as the biggest concern in both regions. In the U.S., 29% of online respondents said terrorism was their biggest or second-biggest concern, an increase of 15 percentage points from the third quarter. In Europe, concern levels were also high and grew significantly from the third to the fourth quarter in Israel (43%, +24pp), the U.K. (32%, +11pp) and the Netherlands (26%, +8pp). Levels were very high or high and remained relatively stable quarter-on-quarter in Turkey (56%, -2pp), France (25%, -1pp), Czech Republic (24%, +1pp), Switzerland (23%, +1pp) and Germany (23%, no change).

Immigration concerns also escalated in North America (29%), as just under one-third of Americans (32%) said it was their biggest or second-biggest worry, a rise of 26 percentage points from the third quarter making it the number one concern in the country. Immigration anxieties were also notably high in central European and Scandinavian countries, with levels highest in the Czech Republic (36%), Sweden (28%), Germany (27%), Austria and Norway (26% each), the U.K. and Switzerland (22% each) and Finland (21%)—most with significant quarter-on-quarter increases.

In most economies and over most periods in the survey, concerns related to the economy, jobs and prices have been top-of-mind for consumers. That terrorism and immigration should remain important or increase across several major consumer markets is a new phenomenon.

“Consumer concerns about terrorism and immigration have risen in recent quarters in those countries most affected by recent related events,” said Louise Keely, senior vice president, Nielsen, and president, The Demand Institute. “We continue to monitor the effects that these demographic and political issues may eventually have on consumer spending. In general, it is big and unexpected events that are likely to be the most disruptive for consumers.”

The economy remained the top concern in Latin America (34%) and Asia-Pacific (29%), with levels highest globally in Venezuela (54%), Thailand (51%), Malaysia (50%), Taiwan (44%), Indonesia (42%) and Argentina (39%).

Job security concerns were highest in the Middle East/Africa (29%), as four-in-10 respondents in the United Arab Emirates (40%), one-in-three in Pakistan (33%) and almost three-in-10 in Egypt (29%) said it was their biggest or second-biggest concern.

Other findings from the fourth-quarter Consumer Confidence Index include:

  • Global consumer confidence declined two points from the third quarter to 97 – the same score as the start of the year.
  • Cutting back on out-of-home entertainment was one of the top three savings strategies in every region in the fourth quarter, with the highest level reported in Latin America (53%).
  • In the U.S., the percentage who believed they were in recession fell to 47%, the lowest level seen since Nielsen began tracking recessionary sentiment in 2008.
  • Consumer Confidence in the fourth quarter increased in 26 of 61 markets measured by Nielsen (43% of measured markets).
  • Consumer confidence in all three sub-Saharan markets measured by Nielsen (Nigeria, Ghana & Kenya) finished 2015 above an index score of 100.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s fourth-quarter 2015 Global Consumer Confidence Report.

For a historical look at global consumer confidence by region, country and time period, explore the Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Trend Tracker.


The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted Nov. 2–25, 2015 and polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 61 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East/Africa and North America. The sample includes Internet users who agreed to participate in this survey and has quotas based on age and sex for each country. It is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers by country. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. However, a probability sample of equivalent size would have a margin of error of ±0.6% at the global level. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The China Consumer Confidence Index is compiled from a separate mixed methodology survey among 3,500 respondents in China. The sub-Saharan African countries in this study are compiled from a separate mobile methodology survey among 1,600 respondents in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.