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Stressful Cities 2012

Sperling’s ranks the 50 largest metro areas to find the ones with the most and least stress

Portland, Oregon — Sperling’s BestPlaces, a research firm specializing in livability rankings, has released its new study of major cities with the most and least stress.  The study analyzed a variety of factors associated with stress, including suicide, divorce, crime, joblessness and lengthy commuting.

Five of the top ten metro areas in the Sperling stress study are Florida, with the Tampa area earning the title of “Most Stressful City.”  Other Florida cities in the top ten are Miami (#3), Jacksonville (#4), Orlando (#6), and West Palm Beach (#10). 

“Frankly, I was shocked by the concentration of Florida cities clustered in the top ten,” said lead researcher Bert Sperling.  “But when we look into the statistics, we can see some of the reasons.”  Contributing factors are high levels of divorce and suicide, as well as high unemployment, a lingering consequence of the Florida’s real estate boom and bust.  The residents of most of the Florida cities in our study also were more likely to report feelings of stress, depression and emotional problems, and high crime rates contribute to their rankings.

Other places in the top ten were Las Vegas (#2), Detroit (#5), Riverside CA (#7), Sacramento (#8), and Seattle (#9).  “The real surprise here is Seattle,” says Sperling.  “It isn’t a city we normally think of as stressful, but the divorces, suicides and alcohol use are near the 80th percentile for our study, commuting is painful, and crime is surprisingly high.”

And yes, the Sperling researchers considered the impact of cloudy days, though it was the least important factor in the study.  “We’ve done some analysis to test the validity of the popular notion that cloudy days contribute to depression, stress or suicide.  Perhaps to a small extent, but we’ve found that the suicide rate is more closely associated with sunnier places.  That’s a subject for another study.”

On the flip side of the rankings are the cities with the least stress, and here Minneapolis is the most chill city (literally, this time of the year).  The list of ten least stressful places also includes wealthy spots such as Long Island NY, Cambridge MA, San Jose CA, Washington DC, and Orange County CA.  But gritty places like Pittsburgh (#5) and Cleveland (#10) also in the top ten, as are Dallas (#8) and Virginia Beach (#4).

A complete list of all 50 metro areas in the study are on the Sperling’s BestPlaces web site – www.bestplaces.net.  The rankings and supporting data are available here.

Data analyzed for the study included (in order of importance):

  • Unemployment rate
  • Suicide rate
  • Commute time
  • Mental health (days per month with poor mental health, from an annual CDC survey)
  • Poor rest (days per month without adequate restful sleep, CDC survey)
  • Alcohol use (drinks per month, CDC survey)
  • Violent crime rate
  • Property crime rate
  • Cloudy days annually

A report from the American Psychological Association states “significant sources of stress include money (75 percent of survey respondents), work (70 percent), the economy (67 percent), relationships (58 percent), family responsibilities (57 percent), family health problems (53 percent), personal health concerns (53 percent), job stability (49 percent), housing costs (49 percent) and personal safety (32 percent).” (APA - Stress in America)

Notes Sperling, “Suicide is perhaps the last desperate act of a stressful life, and is closely correlated with divorce at a statistical level.  In our study, the rates of suicide and divorce had an R-squared correlation value of 0.78, which indicates a very strong association.

We also considered crime to be relatively less important.  For reasons unclear to sociologists, crime in our society continues to decline, and is becoming less of a factor.”

About Sperling’s BestPlaces

Bert Sperling has been helping people find their own "Best Place" to live, work and retire for more than 20 years. His firm, Sperling's BestPlaces, puts facts in the hands of the public so they can make better decisions about best places to live, work, retire, play, or relocate. His bestselling books, Cities Ranked and Rated and Best Places to Raise Your Family, are published by John Wiley & Sons.  More information about Bert and his work is available at www.bestplaces.net and www.bertsperling.com.

See the Data

Stressful Cities 2012 List

Stressful Cities 2012 List Continued