Misery index and happiness

The original misery index was developed by the economist A. Okun back in the 1960s. Okun, who is mostly known from his Okun’s Law on unemployment and GDP, defined the misery index as being the sum of the rate of unemployment and the rate of inflation for any given time. For instance, the latest misery index for the US is 6.13:

5 [unemployment rate] + (1.13) [inflation rate] = 6.13 [misery index]

The idea behind the misery index is to capture what hurts most the ordinary people: that is the unemployment and inflation. The interesting thing is that when governments try to reduce unemployment then the inflation can increase – so ideally they try to take balanced actions that will keep both of them relatively low.

Screenshot taken from miseryindex.us

The new challenges that economies face, however, are more related with things like the deficit and GDP. So, analysts at Moody’s proposed in 2009 a new version of the index that uses the unemployment rate and the fiscal deficit as a percent of the gross domestic product. According to Moody’s this new index better reflects the challenges that the major economies of the world expect to face over the next decade or so.

Taken from http://www.economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/a-new-misery-index

Spain makes it to the top of the list, while Ireland and Greece also have high positions.

But what makes us happy really?

Now, for the longest ever study on happines see the presentation by Robert Waldinger on TED.

And we’re constantly told to lean in to work, to push harder and achieve more. We’re given the impression that these are the things that we need to go after in order to have a good life. Pictures of entire lives, of the choices that people make and how those choices work out for them, those pictures are almost impossible to get.

They set up the Harvard Study of Adult Development and for 75 years they have tracked the lives of 724 men, asking about their worklife, life at home, and health.

The main result of the study is that good relationships make us happier and healthier.

Social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected.


It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.


Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains.