NJ may be the most stressed state


We New Jersey residents are awfully proud of leading the country in car insurance rates, property taxes and political corruption. Now no less of an august authority than the University of Cambridge claims that modern life has turned my fellow residents into balls of stress.

According to a press release issued by the U.K. university, "New Jersey is one of the highest-scoring states for "neuroticism"; a personality trait normally associated with anxiety, stress and impulsive behavior. So, instead of the Garden State, maybe we ought to refer to ourselves as the Woody Allen State. By that I mean the funny Woody of the 1970s and 1980s and not the weird, creepy guy we see today.

We New Jerseyeans have issues: a governor forced to resign after admitting that he had an affair with another man, a dentist who allegedly decided to dispose of his medical waste at sea so that it washed up on the Jersey Shore. Then there's the jokes. People think that most residents in my state are a cross between Tony Soprano, Bruce Springsteen and Fred Flintstone. Bedrock certainly was a prehistoric stand-in for Bayonne or maybe Jersey City.

Researchers at Cambridge -- led interestingly by a native of Louisiana -- tried to create a personality map of the United States. The point of this exercise escapes me. I mean, did you need a study to prove that people in the Northeast are more uptight that people in the Midwest. It's common sense, no. The Cambridge researchers insist that they are about more than perpetuating stereotypes.

"Obviously it's not as simple as saying that a person is guaranteed to be more anxious if they come from West Virginia or more religious because they happen to live in New Mexico; but we did find pretty clear signs that there are meaningful differences in the personalities of people living in different areas of the United States," said Dr. Jason Rentfrow, the lead researcher, in a press release.