Special Report

Most Miserable Countries in the World

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20. Sudan
> Residents who say they have freedom to make life’s choices: 38.8%
> Residents who say they have social support: 81.2%
> Residents who believe corruption is widespread in their government: 79.6%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 53.8 years

Sudan is a country victimized by civil war and famine. Indeed, widespread human rights violations, religious persecution, and the perceived harboring of terrorists have isolated Sudan. The country has one of the lowest percentages of residents who say they have freedom to make life’s choices. The one bright spot is the United States and the European Union have pledged renewal of support, saying the country cooperates in the fight against terrorism.

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19. Ukraine
> Residents who say they have freedom to make life’s choices: 51.1%
> Residents who say they have social support: 88.3%
> Residents who believe corruption is widespread in their government: 92.6%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 63.2 years

You don’t have to search very far to understand why Ukraine experienced one of the greatest downturns in this year’s rankings and had one of the largest happiness losses since the 2008-2010 tabulation. The current civil unrest began in late 2013, with Russia supporting the population in eastern Ukraine and taking control of Crimea. Despite the many ceasefires, violence continues in eastern Ukraine. Widespread corruption and tax evasion also adds to the country’s problems. Ukraine has highest percentage of residents who believe corruption is rampant in government at more than 92%.

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18. Togo
> Residents who say they have freedom to make life’s choices: 73.9%
> Residents who say they have social support: 49.9%
> Residents who believe corruption is widespread in their government: 76.1%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 52.0 years

This little sovereign state in western Africa is in the midst of a political crisis. Opposition leaders are eager to end President Faure Gnassingbé’s 13-year rule, disgruntled by the fact that his family has held power this long. This has a direct correlation to human rights abuses. On the upside, Togo is the largest gainer in the UN’s happiness survey, jumping 17 places.

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17. Guinea
> Residents who say they have freedom to make life’s choices: 70.6%
> Residents who say they have social support: 62.9%
> Residents who believe corruption is widespread in their government: 77.3%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 50.7 years

Guinea’s abundance of bauxite and rich deposits of diamond and gold should be positives for the country, yet much of the population lives in poverty. Now political tensions are rising. President Alpha Conde just ousted 13 of his 33 cabinet ministers with no reasons given. The fear is he is going to alter the constitution so that he may run for a third term.

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16. Lesotho
> Residents who say they have freedom to make life’s choices: 73.0%
> Residents who say they have social support: 80.2%
> Residents who believe corruption is widespread in their government: 74.1%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 46.5 years

Officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, the southern African country unfortunately is greatly afflicted by the HIV epidemic, having one of the highest prevalence rates. The female population is affected the most. Adolescent girls and young women ages 15 to 24 account for a quarter of new HIV infections annually. Lesotho is one of four countries on the UN list whose healthy life expectancy at birth is fewer than 50 years.