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America's Most (and Least) Stressful Cities

Portland, Oregon, January 9, 2004 - Between international terrorism and a struggling economy, today's Americans are faced with more stress than ever. In this new study, America's favorite research gurus at Sperling's BestPlaces have identified the most and least stressful U.S. cities.

Which U.S. cities provide an environment that can help make our life more relaxed and enjoyable? Are there certain U.S. cities where residents regularly face particularly stressful conditions?

Our "Sperling Stress Index" is comprised of nine different factors which are associated with stress: unemployment rate, divorce rate, commute time, violent and property crime rates, suicide rate, alcohol consumption, self-reported "poor mental health", and number of cloudy days.

Study Highlights

 

  • Click here for a complete rankings for all 331 metro areas in our study.
  • Review our study's methodology to see how we scored and rated the cities.
  • Tacoma, Washington ranks as the most stressful city of the 100 largest metro areas. Galveston, Texas earns the dubious honor in the mid-size category, and Yuba City, California is the most stressful among the smallest metro areas.
  • On the brighter side, Albany, New York is the least stressful large metro area, while Provo, Utah anchors the top spot among the mid-size cities. Among the smallest metro areas, Bismarck, North Dakota in number one in a low-stress environment.
  • "Most of the top-ten stress cities are grappling with high unemployment," said Bert Sperling, president of Sperling's BestPlaces. "It affects the entire community, whether you presonally have a job or not. Rising unemployment has been tied to increased crime, and declining tax revenues force reductions in social services that affect young and old alike."
  • Las Vegas has a robust economy, but had the highest percentage of divorced residents and the highest rate of suicides. And despite Miami's #2 stress ranking, they maintained a positive mental attitude, with one of the lowest rates in residents reporting poor mental health.
  • Among the low-stress cities, there appears a common theme of state capitals and institutions of higher learning. "Government and universities provide a solid economic base to smaller cities, lessening the stress caused by economic cycles," reported Sperling.
  • There appears to be something special about Honolulu. In our studies, it seems that they have a unique attitude that allows them to be less affected by the stresses of today's busy lifestyle. A recent Sperling's BestPlaces study on the Best Cities for Sleep found Honolulu residents reporting the highest scores for restful and relaxing sleep. In this study, Honolulu also reported the lowest number of days that they felt anxious, tense, stressed or depressed.
  • An interesting footnote to this study was the discovery of a strong correlation between the rates of suicide and divorce. In the great majority of the cities we investigated, those areas with a high percentage of divorced residents was matched with a high suicide rate. And the opposite was true as well... places with few divorces also had few suicides.
  • This study will be updated regularly, and we have identified new categories for consideration in the next study. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

 

Top Five Most Stressful Cities

Tacoma, WA

Tacoma residents contend with one of the highest divorce rates in the country as well as one of the highest unemployment rates. It's cloudy in Tacoma much of the time, and the suicide and property crime rates are high. On a brighter note, Tacomans can feel safe from bodily harm thanks to the low violent crime rate.

Miami, FL

Miami has the highest violent crime rate in our study as well as one of the highest property crime rates. Making Miami even more stressful is the long commute time, a high unemployment rate, and a high rate of divorce. Despite these factors, Miami residents manage to maintain a positive mental attitude.

New Orleans

Maybe New Orleans should be nicknamed The Big Un -Easy, due to a high violent crime rate and a high unemployment rate. There's also a significant number of suicides and divorces.

Las Vegas, NV

The turbulent lifestyle of Las Vegas produces some extremely stressful conditions-- the highest suicide and divorce rates in our study, as well as a great deal of alcohol use. Unfortunately, the greatest number of sunny days per year doesn't seem to translate to overall happiness-- residents of Las Vegas have a great number of days experiencing poor mental health.

New York, NY

Beginning and ending their days with the longest commute in the country, the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple can really stress people out. Unemployment is high and so is violent crime, which may explain why New Yorkers spend many of their days experiencing stress, depression, and problems with emotions. But New Yorkers are not quitters - the suicide and divorce rates are some of the lowest.

Top Five Least Stressful Cities

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY and Harrisburg-Lebanon-Carlisle, PA

These hardworking state capitals and their surrounding areas boast two of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. In fact, both areas score well in many categories- low divorce rates, short average commute times, a low overall crime rate, and low rates of suicide. One downside to these northeastern cities is their often-cloudy skies and dreary winters

Orange County, CA

Life really goes smoothly in "the O.C."- little crime, low unemployment, and a whole lot of sunshine. The commute can take awhile, but Orange County residents seem to be able to handle it. And their suicide rate is one of the lowest.

Nassau-Suffolk, NY

Although residents of Nassau and Suffolk counties have a very long commute, the area has the lowest violent and property crime rates in the country. The divorce and suicide rates are also among the lowest in the country, indicating a safe and stable place to live.

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

The Twin Cities have a low unemployment rate and a low violent crime rate. Despite many cloudy days, the suicide rate is low and the stress scores are generally favorable across the board.

About Sperling's BestPlaces

For nearly 20 years, Bert Sperling has been helping people find their own Best Place to live, work, play, and retire. As the foremost creator of these studies, his work appears in the national media nearly every month, where they enlighten and entertain millions.

Sperling has just completed "Cities Ranked & Rated: Your Guide to the Best Places to Live in the U.S. & Canada", published by John Wiley & Sons for release in March.

Sperling's firm has also performed a number of "Best Places" studies for corporate advertising campaigns including the recent "Most Photogenic Cities" (FujiFilm), "Most Romantic Cities" (Korbel Champagne), "Best and Worst Cities for Skin Care" (Keri Lotion), "Safest Cities" (Chevrolet), "Worst Places for Fleas" (Hartz Mountain), "Most Hazardous Places" (Duracell), "Pet Healthiest Cities" (Purina), "Asthma HotSpots" (Glaxo Smith Kline), "America's Sweetest Cities" (Hersheys), "Most UnWired Cities" (Intel), "Most Drivable Cities" (Pep Boys), "Most Fun Cities" (Cranium) and others.

Corporate partners licensing city and neighborhood data from Sperling's BestPlaces have included Microsoft's MSN, eBay, Yahoo!, AOL, the Wall Street Journal, CNN-Money.com, USNews.com, ConsumerInfo, Primacy Relocation, and the web sites of the nation's largest real estate and relocation companies.