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According to recent press articles, Switzerland ranked as the world’s least miserable place to live in 2022. This, according the US Economist Steve Hankes’ latest “miserable index”.  This economic index ranks Switzerland as best performing from 157 countries, on factors such as unemployment, inflation and bank lending rates. We look at how the index developed and ask if gives a realistic picture. And more importantly – is Switzerland the least miserable place to live in the world?


The worlds first misery index was created by the US economist, Arthur Okun in the 1970’s. It was designed to give a snapshot purely of the US economy and measured the inflation, and unemployment rates. According that index, the higher the score, the greater the misery felt by the average citizen (“misery” as defined financially that is).

  • However, this first index was seen to have failings, as it didn’t show any growth data and a later version created by the Harvard economist Robert Barro improved the index by adding Interest rate and economic growth data to give a good snapshot of the relative health of the US economy.
  • In 2011, John Hopkins economist Steve Hanke again added to the index and also went beyond the US to other international countries to measure “misery” globally.
  • His “misery index” shows unemployment + Inflation + Bank Lending Rates minus the change in real domestic product or GDP per capita compared to other countries around the world.
  • Later additions include bank lending rates which have helped broaden the index.  The core function however is the same, and that is to measure how miserable (or not) a country is based on its economic data.

According to the most recent 2022 study, Switzerland takes the 157th spot with a misery index of just 8.518 points making it the least miserable country in the world to live in. According the economist, Steve Hanke –  “One reason for that is that the Swiss debt brake has worked like a charm. Unlike most countries, Switzerland’s debt-to-GDP ratio has been on a downward trend in the last two decades, since it enshrined its debt brake into its constitution in a 2002 national referendum.” 





Economic Indicators in Switzerland 2022

Looking at the main “misery index” measurements, we can see that the economy of Switzerland has recovered well since Covid-19 and a disciplined political and economic approach, combined with equally disciplined SWISS public behaviour, have both supported Switzerland’s recent and ongoing economic success. The relevant indicators for Switzerland for 2022 show:

  • Unemployment rate as measured in December 2022 = 4.19%
  • Inflation rate for 2022 = 2.84%  (compared to its neighbours in the EU with an average of around 10%)
  • Bank lending rate for 2022 = 2.65% (slightly up from 2.64% previous year)
  • GDP per capita USD92’434 (Switzerland ranked 4th globally behind Luxembourg, Ireland and Norway).

It can be concluded, that economic wellbeing accurately measured using the misery indicator as outlined, is a strong evaluator for economic misery (or not). And at the same time, the correlation between financial and emotional happiness is also well documented. Money problems and mental health issues are seen as being intrinsically linked.

  • According to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, “poor finances often lead to stress and anxiety that can further impact finances”.
  • The institute also found that: 46% of people with debt also have a mental health diagnosis.

While the Swiss have seemingly earned a reputation for cuckoo clocks, banking, chocolate, mountains – and being humourless, Switzerland has made a positive impression on most who have visited it and many that haven’t.

Switzerland is an orderly and clean country and that is perhaps one further reason why it does well in international comparisons. Indeed James Joyce, the famous Irish writer reputedly said upon visiting the country – ” Zürich’s Bahnhofstrasse is so clean, that one could drink minestrone soup off it.” Whether that counts towards making the country less miserable is open for debate.


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