If life has got you down, it might be time to get out of town.
A new venue could help keep you from feeling so blue.
No, those aren’t the lyrics to the real estate industry’s No. 1 “Location, Location, Location” ditty.
It’s just that some locations will put a song in your heart. Others might break it.
Stressful conditions converge in some cities more so than others and if you live in one of those towns you could find yourself in a funk, according to “America’s Most (and Least) Stressful Cities” recently released by Bert Sperling’s BestPlaces.net, a Portland, OR-based website that offers studies on the best and the worst of locations.
This time, Sperling put 331 metropolitan areas to the stress test to find which cities push you closer to the brink of breakdown and which ones lift you nearer to nirvana.
It can be a useful study, especially if you are more prone to the negative effects of stress and can be flexible about where you live. If you can’t move and already live in a high-stress town the study can clue you in to why you might be so blue.
The Centers for Disease Control says stress is the physical and psychological wear and tear of responding to the demands or pressures (real or perceived) of life. It’s an instinctive “fight or flight” response that can trigger positive results. Overwhelming stress, however, can lead to high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, binge drinking, drug use and other negative responses.
Sperling says today’s Americans, faced with the pressures of rising and falling terror alerts, a struggling economy and other New Millennium woes, suffer more stress than ever and he took a look at some of the causes to rate each town’s potential to lift or lower your spirits.
In the general order the categories were weighted by significance, Sperling rated each town based on the nine-category “Sperling’s Stress Index.”
- Unemployment rate – The percent of the metro area’s workforce seeking a job, but are currently unemployed.
- 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 (burglary, larceny, and auto theft) crimes per 100,000 residents.
- Commute time – The average time for a one-way commute to work.
- Suicide rate – The per-capita rate of the population that has committed suicide.
- Divorce rate – The percent of the metro area’s population over the age of 16 currently divorced and not remarried.
- Mental health – The self-reported number of days per month in response to a question “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?” that was answered with “mental health was not good.”
- Alcohol consumption – The self-reported number of alcoholic drinks per month consumed by adult residents.
- Cloudy days – The number of days per year which were partially cloudy or completely overcast.
What towns passed the stress test?
The Top Five Least Stressful Cities were:
- Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY and Harrisburg-Lebanon-Carlisle, PA — Two hardworking state capitals and their surrounding areas boast two of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. The areas also revealed low divorce rates, short commute times and low crime.
- Orange County, CA — “The O.C.” is, well, sweet when it comes to a less stressful lifestyle. Crime, suicide and unemployment are low. The high number of top-down sun-shiny days takes the rage out of being on the road to work so much.
- Nassau-Suffolk, NY — Residents in Nassau and Suffolk counties suffer long commutes, but low levels of violence and property crimes, as well as low divorce and suicide rates. The combination creates safe and stable communities.
- Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN — Named top “Fun City” and listed among the safest cities in other studies, The Twin Cities offer lots to do for work and play which creates low unemployment and crime rates. Lots of indoor cultural, arts and social activities, as well as wintertime outdoor sports help overcome the high number of cloudy days. The suicide rate is also low.
The Top Five Most Stressful Cities were:
- Tacoma, WA — Residents here face one of the worst divorce rates in the nation, one of the highest unemployment rates, it’s often overcast and the suicide and property crime rates are high. Apparently, everybody already feels too worked over to commit violent crimes. The violent crime rate is low.
- Miami, FL — For all its sunshine Miami is clouded by violence, property crimes, long commutes, a high unemployment rate, and many divorces. It can be very retiring.
- New Orleans — Call it the Big Queasy for its high violent crime and unemployment rates, New Orleans also has a significant number of suicides and divorces. It’s a town made for signing the blues.
- Las Vegas, NV — Losing your shirt, finding your cookie-cutter home in a sprawling Levittown-style subdivision, spotting Elvis and being abducted by extraterrestrials is stressful enough. The highest suicide and divorce (an outgrowth of quickie marriages, no doubt) rates in the study, heavy boozing and relatively poor mental health conditions generate a lot of stressful fear and loathing in Las Vegas. It’s a good thing whatever happens there stays there, as the city’s new slogan says.
- New York, NY — The City That Never Sleeps should take a nap now and then. Rest is good for stress. Like Vegas, another all night town’s hustle and bustle can wear you 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. Terrorists killing thousands and destroying the World Trade Center towers didn’t help. But New Yorkers do stick it out and stay together through thick and thin. Suicide and divorce rates were among the lowest in the study.
For a complete list of cites by population size see “America’s Most (and Least) Stressful Cities.”
Written by Broderick Perkins