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America's Most (and Least) Stressful Cities

Stressful Cities Methodology

All places (Metropolitan Statistical Areas or MSAs) received points for each of the study criteria based on their relation to the other MSAs' scores in that data category. To maintain consistency throughout the study, the most significant data element for any given category (that which implied the most stress) received a score of 100 points. The data element for any given category which was associated with the least stress received a score of 0 points. The remaining cities were assigned point values between 0 and 100 based on their data element's percentage of the range between the most desirable score in that category and the least desirable score in that category. In this way, the point values assigned to cities preserve the proportionality of the data points in relation to the data set while providing a common point scale.


There were nine data categories in this study:

  • Divorce rate - the percent of the metro area's population over the age of 16 which are currently divorces, and have not remarried.
  • Unemployment rate - the percent of the metro area's workforce which are seeking a job, but are currently unemployed.
  • Commute time - the average time for a one-way commute to the place of work.
  • Violent crime - the rate of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Violent crimes include murder, rape, assault, and robbery.
  • Property crime - the rate of property (non-violent) crimes per 100,000 residents. Property crimes include burglary, larceny, and auto theft.
  • Suicide rate - the per-capita rate of the population which have taken their own life.
  • Alcohol consumption - the self-reported number of alcoholic drinks per month consumed by adult residents.
  • Mental health - the self-reported number of days per month where one's "mental health was not good." The complete question was "Thinking about your mental health, which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, for how many days during the past 30 days was your mental health not good?"
  • Cloudy days - the number of days per year which were partially cloudy or completely overcast.



The nine categories were weighted as to their importance to the study:

  • Those categories considered most significant were unemployment rate, crime, commute time, and suicide.
  • Of moderate importance were the categories of divorce and mental health.
  • Those categories weighted with the least importance were cloudy days and alcohol consumption.


Data Sources


  • Divorce rate - 2000 Census, with 2002 estimates based on the Current Population Survey
  • Unemployment rate - Bureau of Labor Statistics, October, 2003
  • Communte time - 2000 Census
  • Violent and Property crime - FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 2002. Released November 2003, with additional analysis by Sperling's BestPlaces.
  • Suicide rate - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Wonder Compressed Mortality Data, 2000
  • Alcohol consumption and Mental Health - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey Data. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001-2002
  • Cloudy days - National Climatic Data Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Return to the study's main page.