You know the feeling: You’re totally wiped out from the week … but it’s only Tuesday. You can’t sleep. Your palms sweat, and your heart races. You ‘re concerned about everything. You spend disturbing amounts of your paycheck on shrinks, Zen sand gardens, squeezy anxiety balls, and books with titles like “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.”
You, my friend, are stressed out.
There’s so much to agonize over these days: job, family, money, real estate shortages, freaky presidential campaigns, an excruciatingly late 2017 starting date for the next season of “Game of Thrones.” It’s no wonder that last year, 1 in 4 Americans reported that they were highly stressed, according to the American Psychological Association. And stress, medical experts agree, is not our friend. It can make us fat, make us depressed, weaken our immune systems, and even trigger heart attacks and strokes. (Sorry, are we stressing you out?)
Where you live can have a major effect on your stress level. In many of the nation’s most desirable and expensive cities, rent eats up a disproportionately large chunk of your income, leading to money worries and despair over the prospect of ever saving up for a down payment on a home. And that’s if you even have a secure job—no sure thing in the more economically distressed metro areas.
“Each city shares some common causes for stress, like noise, people, competition, traffic, but they also diverge into their own special pain points,” says self-described “stress coach” Jordan Friedman in New York City, author of “The Stress Manager’s Manual.”
So which cities are sending their residents’ collective anxiety to pandemic levels? Our remarkably chill data team pulled together a list of 11 metrics that we think give a pretty good indication:
- Housing affordability, signaled by price-to-income ratio
- Average hours of sleep
- Average work hours
- Percentage of people who commute more than 45 minutes to work
- Unemployment rate
- Percentage of people who live below the poverty line
- Divorce rate
- Number of yoga and meditation centers per capita
- Percentage of people in “poor” or “fair” health (46% of Americans cite health concerns as a leading cause of stress)
- Percentage of people who don’t think “having as much fun as possible” is important, according to a 2016 Nielsen poll.
As our data reveal, some of the United States’ most stressed-out cities are indeed famously anxiety-prone—New York, we’re looking at you!—but others are closet stress cases. And keep reading for our list of America’s most relaxed metros!
Median home price: $673,000
Living in a city notorious for having the nation’s—if not the planet’s—worst commute, Angelenos start off their day with a soul-crushing slog to work, bathed in the exhaust fumes of other unhappy workers’ vehicles.
“When it takes you an hour to drive 7 or 8 miles, it certainly creates lots of stress,” says Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist Tracey Harvey. “One thing I usually suggest is when you see a red traffic light, use it as a moment to stop all thoughts. Don’t check text messages, just breathe and relax.” (Easier said than done, Tracey!)
Home prices in Los Angeles are soaring, but incomes still haven’t fully recovered from the mass exodus of manufacturing jobs from the 1970s through the ’90s. With a median household income of a little over $60,000, millions of Angelenos can barely afford to be Angelenos.
Extra stress point: L.A. has the worst air pollution of any large American metro. Enjoy!
Median home price: $350,000
Seven years after the recession, the economy of Riverside—an hour east of eastern L.A., but in a different world, known as the Inland Empire—remains in a state of prolonged recovery. The city is plagued both by high unemployment (6.6%) and by high poverty rates (18%). Ashley Furniture HomeStore recently announced it was shutting down two plants in nearby Colton, eliminating 840 jobs in the state.
Extra stress point: Put aside some cash for a ready supply of Brita: The metro’s tap water ranks second-highest in the U.S. for chemicals and pollutants.
3. Miami, FL
Median home price: $349,000
OK, this one surprised you, right? Turns out sunshine and beaches aren’t the answer to everything. In fact, an endless cycle of too little leisure time and chronic sleep deprivation help contribute to the city’s abnormally high 12.8% divorce rate.
Another unexpected factor: prosperity! Florida’s economy and housing market are recovering after being hit hard by the housing collapse in 2008 and subsequent recession, but somehow, more and more married couples now feel financially secure enough to split up, according to divorce lawyer Ronald Kauffman. “The fear that they will be penniless and homeless after a divorce is largely gone,” Kauffman says.
Extra stress point: Home buyers face competition not just from their peers, but also from international buyers with deep pockets who swoop in with cash offers.
Median home price: $315,000
It may also come as a surprise that Anchorage, with its peaceful backdrop of snowy mountains, low population density, and plentiful caribou burgers, is actually a stressful city. But people in Anchorage log in some of the longest work hours (41.2 hours a week). And they don’t get much sleep after staggering home—just 6.75 hours every night. Matters are probably not helped by those stretches of Alaskan summer when the city gets 20-plus hours of sunlight per day.
Extra stress point: Sarah Palin
5. New York, NY
Median home price: $422,000
There are way too many distractions keeping New Yorkers up at night, with the average city dweller logging just 6.82 hours of sleep per night. Then there are the exorbitant prices of everything, the dog-eat-dog competitiveness, the surly newsstand guys, the pizza rats. Even with the country’s best—if wildly overcrowded—public transit system, one-third of workers have to travel more than 45 minutes to work every day.
So how come New York is not No. 1 on the list? New Yorkers work hard and party hard—nearly half think having “as much fun as possible” is a top priority, according to a recent poll. And did we mention the beautiful people? Beautiful people.
Extra stress point: Envy
6. Houston, TX
Median home price: $315,000
Houston is feeling the pain of the collapse in oil prices—in July, total non-farm employment in the area increased by only 0.4% compared to last year, the lowest among major U.S. metros, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If traffic congestion, angry commuters, and long work schedules were less of a problem during the city’s economic boom, they are now causing stress levels to veer into the danger zone.
Extra stress point: Home to deadly mosquito-borne viruses
Median home price: $250,000
Life isn’t really all that easy in New Orleans, despite its nickname of “the Big Easy,” Almost 1 in 5 families struggles below the poverty line, and a 6.2% unemployment rate doesn’t promise a better future. The city’s high crime—a 15% jump in the violent crime rate since 2010—certainly doesn’t help ease nerves, either. The Washington Post reported that the ranks of police in New Orleans have dwindled by 24% since Hurricane Katrina.
Extra stress point: The summer humidity is so high that makeup literally melts off women’s faces.
Median home price: $218,000
This metro in southern Louisiana relies heavily on the oil industry, and has some of the nation’s hardest-working people: They work 41.2 hours a week, 7% longer than the national average. Not surprising when you consider that many oil jobs require workweeks of upwards of 80 hours in the oilfields. But low oil prices have brought the city into an economic slump, and left it with unemployment of a whopping 7.6%.
Extra stress point: Not a big emphasis here on de-stressing. The city only has 15 yoga or meditation centers, way below the national average.
9. Phoenix, AZ
Median home price: $300,000
Like other cities on the list, Phoenix has its share of stress due to long work hours, frustrating commutes, and a high divorce rate. And forget about humidity, let’s just focus on the heat: Last summer, the temperature in Phoenix reached a groundbreaking 118 degrees.
Extra stress point: “Heat waves can lead to hot tempers. The heat can really get you, and you are more likely to get angry. That creates problems in life and in relationships,” says life coach Cindy Holbrook.
10. Sacramento, CA
Median home price: $427,000
The last recession hit hard in Sacramento—the capital of California, where the economy relies heavily on government and construction gigs. Jobs slowly flowed back to the region after the recession, but the 5.5% unemployment rate is still higher than the national average.
Extra stress point: Home prices skyrocketed 19% in the past year, and high rents outpace the income recovery.
What’s that, you say? You’ve had it with all this stress? If you’re searching for a relaxing place to call home, look to the Midwest!
The top 10 places with a chill, carefree vibe are all mid-sized cities where stable jobs may not guarantee a six-digit salary but offer more than enough for you to comfortably afford a home and live a stress-free life. Relatively speaking, that is.
1. Fargo, ND
Median home price: $253,000
Median home price: $296,000
3. Madison, WI
Median home price: $275,000
4. Bismarck, ND
Median home price: $275,000
Median home price: $220,000
6. Portland, ME
Median home price: $329,000
Median home price: $192,000
Median home price: $175,000
Median home price: $191,000
10. Duluth, MN
Median home price: $170,000Copyright 10/17/2016