Stress may be inevitable, and some levels of stress may indeed be positive, but many situations, relationships, and even whole cities are downright toxic. Americans should know which parts of the country are associated with stress or thriving.
Many factors contribute to stress, and it is difficult to rank America’s largest cities by this metric. Even so, some level of analysis is possible and even helpful for Americans deciding where to make their home.
To rank America’s cities, WalletHub considered four major types of stress. The site assigned 25 points each to work stress, financial stress, family stress, and health and safety stress.
Work stress considered average weekly work hours, job security, traffic, unemployment and underemployment, average commute time, income growth, and job satisfaction. Financial stress considered household income, families behind on bills, foreclosure, bankruptcy, poverty, and food insecurity rates, median debt per median earnings, and housing affordability. Family stress considered the divorce rate, single parent households, length of marriage, strength of social ties, and child care cost. Health and safety considered health, depression, mental health, suicide, and insurance rates, along with binge drinking, smoking, physical activity, obesity, sleep, crime, and hate crimes.
Without further ado, here are the ten most stressed cities in the U.S., from least to most stressed. The ten least stressed cities will follow.
10. St. Louis, Mo. Score: 53.57.
St. Louis, the home of Anheuser-Busch, Boeing, Energizer, Panera, and Monsanto, ranks tenth on the WalletHub stress list. It ranks 28th for work stress, 19th for financial stress, 50th for family stress, and 17th for health and safety stress. This balanced rating seems unusual, as most cities have one or two very bad scores and one or two rather good scores.
9. Gulfport, Miss. Score: 54.82.
The second largest city in Mississippi, Gulfport struggles most with health and safety issues. It ranks 67th for work stress, 18th for financial stress, 43rd for family stress, and third for health and safety stress. It may not be a bad place to work, but crime and physical well-being sure take a hit.
8. Milwaukee, Wis. Score: 55.02.
Perhaps it is fitting that a city known for breweries is not a city known for economic and personal well-being. Milwaukee has great beer, but that doesn’t make up for the stress. The city ranks 58th for work stress, 14th for financial stress, 12th for family stress, and 33rd for health and safety stress.
7. Wilmington, Del. Score: 55.25.
Delaware’s most populous city is a rather bad place to work. Wilmington ranked 7th for work stress, 30th for financial stress, 33rd for family stress, and 28th for health and safety stress — a rather tragic situation all around.
6. Baltimore, Md. Score: 56.94.
The Ravens may have won the Super Bowl in 2012, but that doesn’t make life in Maryland’s most populous city any easier. Baltimore ranks 21st for work stress, 8th for financial stress, 10th for family stress, and 48th for health and safety stress. It may be ironic that a city known for its struggles with crime would have less human anguish from health and safety than other causes of stress, but such is Baltimore. That one thing is looking up for Mobtown.
5. Toledo, Ohio. Score: 57.42.
Just south of Detroit, America’s 7th largest city (according to the 2010 census) struggles with crime and poverty. Toledo ranks 97th for work stress, but seventh for financial stress, 17th for family stress, and fifth for health and safety stress. Those in “the Glass City” had better hope no one throws stones.
4. Birmingham, Ala. Score: 58.03.
“In Birmingham, they love the governor…” was a “Sweet Home Alabama” reference to former Governor George Wallace, a pro-segregation Democrat who ran for president four times. Some of the most violent moments in the Civil Rights movement took place in this city.
In 2018, Birmingham ranks 109th for work stress, fifth for financial stress, third for family stress, and fourth for health and safety stress. You can find a job, but poverty, social divisions, and crime are serious problems.
3. Cleveland, Ohio. Score: 60.81.
“The Forest City” enjoyed a strong police presence for the 2016 Republican National Convention, but it has not remained a safe haven. The city ranks 30th for work stress, second for financial stress, sixth for family stress, and seventh for health and safety stress. It’s hard to scrape by, hard to keep families together, and hard to avoid threats to health and safety — and not even all that easy to find a good job. Ouch.
2. Newark, N.J. Score: 62.80.
Crime in New Jersey’s most populous city has been decreasing in recent years, but that doesn’t make living there all that much better. Second in the nation, Brick City falls on its residents like a brick. It ranks first for work stress, fourth for financial stress, first for family stress, and 45th for health and safety stress. In other words, decreasing crime and increasing health are the only thing keeping the Brick City from the top spot on the stress list.
1. Detroit, Mich. Score: 63.53.
The Motor City should also be known as the demotivation city. The old capital of automobile manufacturing struggles with poverty, crime, and social devastation. Work is pretty bad, too. Detroit ranks 24th for work stress, third for financial stress, fourth for family stress, and first for health and safety stress.
If you’re looking for an easy life, avoid Lake Erie, where Cleveland, Toledo, and Detroit are located. Interestingly, Buffalo, N.Y. — the other major city on Lake Erie — ranks 48th in the nation for stress, with a bad score for health and safety, just like Detroit, Cleveland, and Toledo.
Before delving into the least stressful cities, I want to touch on Washington, D.C. Government workers get paid pretty well, and violence has gone down in the city. It ranks 30th for stress, fifth for work stress, 119th for financial stress, seventh for family stress, and 101st for health and safety stress. Extremely ambitious people live in D.C., so they struggle with overwork and with work-life balance.
As a native Coloradan, I also can’t leave out the Mile High City. Denver ranks 78th for stress: 16th for work stress, 142nd for financial stress, 44th for family stress, and 149th for health and safety stress.
Without further ado, here are the least stressful cities in the U.S., from tenth least to least stressful.
10. Lincoln, Neb. Score: 32.15.
Cornhuskers have it well off in Lincoln. The city ranked 142nd for work stress, 147th for financial stress, 179th for family stress, and 115th for health and safety stress. Since the survey focused on 182 cities, this makes Lincoln the fourth-to-best city for interpersonal relationships.
9. Madison, Wis. Score: 32.10.
While Milwaukee is one of the most on edge cities in America, Wisconsin’s capital is one of the chillest. Madison ranks 161st for work stress, 170th for financial stress, 165th for family stress, and 150th for health and safety stress.
8. San Jose, Calif. Score: 31.88.
No matter how stressful HBO’s “Silicon Valley” is, the San Francisco Bay Area is quite chill. San Jose ranks 140th for work stress, 176th for financial stress, 116th for family stress, and 179th for health and safety stress.
7. Irvine, Calif. Score: 30.52.
While Los Angeles ranked 56th for stress, this Orange County suburb is far less worked up. Irvine ranks 57th for work stress, 174th for financial stress, 158th for family stress, and 180th for health and safety stress.
6. Scottsdale, Ariz. Score: 30.28.
Phoenix and Tucson may not be as chill, but Phoenix suburb Scottsdale is one of the least stressful cities in America. This city ranks 154th for work stress, 167th for financial stress, 168th for family stress, and 171th for health and safety stress.
5. South Burlington, Vt. Score: 30.15.
Maybe it’s all the beer and coats, but the southern part of Bernie Sanders’ hometown is extremely chill — it’s just hard to find a good job. South Burlington ranks 20th for work stress, 179th for financial stress, 181st for family stress, and 161st for health and safety stress.
4. Overland Park, Kan. Score: 29.66.
Kansas City’s more populous suburb, Overland Park ranks 77th for work stress, 177th for financial stress, 171st for family stress, and 174th health and safety stress. Once again, besides a good job, life is excellent — and even on the work front things aren’t that tough.
3. Sioux Falls, S.D. Score: 28.16.
The city of waterfalls with a meat-packing past is super chill. Sioux Falls ranks 111st for work stress, 165th for financial stress, 182nd for family stress, and 166th for health and safety stress.
2. Bismark, N.D. Score: 28.16.
Following the Bakken Boom with shale oil from hydraulic fracturing unleashing low unemployment and prosperity in North Dakota, the state’s capital is riding high. Bismarck ranks 51st for work stress, but 181st for financial stress, 180th for family stress, and 173rd for health and safety stress.
1. Fremont, Calif. Score: 25.93.
The least anxious city in America borders Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area. Fremont ranks 71st for work stress, 182nd for financial stress, 167th for family stress, and 181st for health and safety stress.
So if you want a laid back life, Silicon Valley or the Dakotas would be best, especially if you can find a fulfilling job. Interestingly, these aren’t the most hipster cities in the world, either…
Here’s a map of the findings.