Here’s some cheerful news: apparently, living in South Africa is more miserable than living in Palestine or Iran. And Zimbabwe isn’t even amongst the ten most miserable places to live:

Thanks, the Money Project and

You see, this is why it’s important to understand where data comes from, and what gets left out. Here’s that note at the end:

“The Misery Index is the sum of the unemployment rate, lending rate, and the inflation rate, minus the percent change in real GDP per capita. Only countries with all four data series (or the estimated equivalents from IMF or EIU) available were included.”

So this is all a bit tricky, because most of the really miserable places in the world are far too busy being miserable and/or suffering through civil wars to be keeping track of good data. Which is presumably why Syria has dropped out of the index: no point talking about lending and unemployment rates when people are dying and fleeing and being called “migrants” instead of “refugees” by irate EU officials and the BBC.

In fact, from the last reference I could find, only 108 countries are even eligible to be classed as “miserable”. Out of the 195/196 countries in existence, give or take Taiwan.

But for fun, here’s my estimate of where Zimbabwe sits in the Misery Index:

  • Unemployment rate? About 85%. Let’s keep it conservative. I mean, the official rate is only about 11% – but even according to the government’s own statistics, only 5% of the employed are actually engaged in formal employment. So 85% seems reasonable – and also close to what is commonly spoken about.
  • Lending rate? About 18%, if you can get it.
  • Inflation? About -2.5%. So according to the Cato measure, deflation is not a cause for misery.
  • Percentage change in real GDP per capita? Well, let’s say -2.4% (for the latest IMF numbers).

So Zimbabwe’s misery index number is…107.9.

So second place then?

But probably fourth, because Syria and Yemen should be topping out the list of most miserable places to live, mainly because living in those countries means potentially not living for very much longer. Which definitely sounds a lot more miserable than very high inflation…

Happy Thursday

Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at Or both.