Misery Index Hits 28-Year High

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Time magazine on June 20, 2011, reports that a certain Misery Index has reached a 28-year high. This survey tool, when it was concocted in the 1960s, wasn’t meant to be a scientific and comprehensive measure of human behavior. Rather, it is a shorthand measure combining unemployment and inflation to gauge the effect of both of these on American families.

The Misery Index has now reached a level that has not been seen since the Carter administration. Back then, soaring oil prices along with lax Federal Reserve policies created a frustrating economic condition called stagflation. But what is going on now?

Time notes that current unemployment levels vary enormously by race sex, and age. Men currently have higher unemployment than women, blacks have higher than whites, and the young higher than the old. The fault lines sadly create battlegrounds.

Education matters, and those with graduate degrees have a much lower level of unemployment than those at lower educational levels.

We wonder how a particular person’s Misery Index score might correlate with his or her own experience of depression or anxiety. Economic problems often create mental-health problems. But is it possible to maintain one’s equilibrium, or even stay reasonably happy, when the price of necessary goods exceeds one’s economic reach? Let’s hope that those who are suffering economically may also discover inner resiliency and support from family, friends, and community: to help get them through tough times that (we hope) will be temporary.

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