America's Top 10 Most Stressed Out Cities

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By Robert McGarvey

NEW YORK -- So stressed that many mornings your eyeballs feel ready to explode out of your face?

The cause may be as simple as where you live.

That's the news from online real estate brokerage Movoto which has unveiled its ranking of America's top 10 most stressed out cities.

What didn't make the top 10 list is as interesting as what did. Not a contender is Detroit (No. 21) despite municipal bankruptcy, a violent crime rate that often puts it on top of any most dangerous cities poll, and frankly there is no light at the end of Motor City's very dark tunnel. Even so, it's not a stressful place to live, per Movoto.

Houston, the nation's fourth biggest city, came in a tranquil 43.

The sixth biggest city, Phoenix, didn't even make Movoto's top 50 ranking (it placed 52nd). That makes it the least stressful big city, with even less stress than Charlotte, N.C. (No. 50).

The only other truly big city that didn't place is the nation's seventh biggest, San Antonio, which, said Movoto blogger Randy Nelson who wrote up the research, came in a laid-back 71.

So the stress-phobic know where to move.

Stay tuned for the top 10 countdown but, first, here is how Movoto determined stress. It started with a list of the nation's 100 largest cities, then calculated these measures:
  • Commute time
  • Unemployment
  • High cost of living
  • Crime
  • Hours worked
  • Population density
  • Percentage of income spent on rent
Fair enough. The more time spent working and commuting to pay high living expenses is an undeniable gateway to stress. Factor in population density -- overcrowd rats, and in psych lab experiments they eat each other -- and genuine reasons to fear becoming a crime victim, and indeed there is plenty to be on edge about.

The actual Movoto rankings of the top 10 are sure to incite bar brawls, and it starts with Los Angeles, which won a surprising tenth place finish. Surprising, because Los Angeles always bills itself as a kind of lotus land where worries melt into the Pacific Ocean. Apparently not, because Angelenos have a very high cost of living (eighth highest, per Movoto) and that's stressing out the citizens.

Philadelphia came in ninth, Newark eighth, Chicago seventh and Oakland sixth. No surprises there. Oakland has horrific crime (ninth worst in the nation), and Chicago and Philadelphia have high population density. To boot, really, all of these towns are kinds of second cities, places where people are even though maybe they want to be elsewhere (San Francisco or Berkeley, for Oakland residents, for instance).

Then the race gets more intense. In fifth place is Jersey City, N.J., the second biggest city in the Garden State after Newark and directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan. What won it such a high ranking is long commutes to work (37 minutes on average) and the nation's third highest population density with 16,793 people per square mile.

Fourth place went to San Francisco, which scored high in population density (second highest in the nation with 17,233 people per square mile). But what pushed it into stress overdrive is a cost of living that is the country's highest and, said Movoto, 52 percent higher than the national average.

Third place is Miami where you might think it is all about tall cool drinks and sun -- but residents are seriously stressed about simply affording rent, said Movoto. There's also a lot of crime (it ranks 12 in the country, compared to 56th for San Francisco in the crime count).

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Now let the fight begin.

The second most stressful city is New York City.

The most stressful is Washington, D.C.

That's not a typo.

Blogger Nelson, in an interview, said that what many found most surprising was Washington, D.C.'s win, but, he insisted, it won fair and square. More than three rating points separated it from New York, and going down the survey just about all other cities won their place by a margin of one stress point more than the next place finisher.

Jersey City, for instance, totals 22.43 points. San Francisco edged it out for fourth with 21.57 points. Sixth place Oakland scored 23.

New York City's total is 19.57 in an index where the lower the city score, the higher the stress, said Nelson.

Washington, D.C. slammed it with a 16.43 score, mainly due to the number of hours worked by residents (40.1 hours, third highest work week in the country) and long commutes (33 minutes).

Extremely high population density (27.092 people per square mile), long commutes (44 minutes) and fiercely high rents give New Yorkers their stress.

But now they also have to deal with being edged out by Washington D.C., in the stress race and that has got to hurt.

Maybe enough to net a win for New York City in next year's tally.

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