30 American Cities That Are the Most Stressed Out
The U.S. is overworked, underpaid and gets significantly less paid time off than most other nations, so it's no wonder that these 30 cities are stressed out.
30 American Cities That Are the Most Stressed Out
The United States is stressed out.
Americans eat terribly, hardly exercise and live in the most developed nation without major social safety nets like healthcare. The U.S. is overworked, underpaid and gets significantly less paid time off than most other nations.
The gig economy was invented in the U.S., meaning fewer residents receive even basic benefits. Americans also get less for their rising tax dollars than other parts of the world.
But in a sea of stress, these 30 cities are doing the worst, according to the 2020 Wallethub study that analyzed 182 cities in 42 key metrics and ranked them from least to most stressed out. What can we do to help them relax?
30. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 12
Family Stress Rank: 73
Financial Stress Rank: 61
Work Stress Rank: 39
Total Score: 54.85
* All of the data listed was sourced from Wallethub.
Bottom Line: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The Louisiana capital is the first city from the state on this list.
The stress created in Baton Rouge largely has centered around the city’s pandemic response as well as its placement directly in the line of hurricanes.
29. San Bernardino, California
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 59
Family Stress Rank: 2
Financial Stress Rank: 47
Work Stress Rank: 121
Total Score: 55.12
Bottom Line: San Bernardino, California
San Bernardino is still recovering from its 2012 bankruptcy, and the city is this high on the list of stressed-out municipalities because of the residents’ unusually long commutes.
Those who have to trek the 120-mile round trip to Los Angeles for work could be out of the house for 12 hours or more per day. That pays a heavy toll on families.
28. Indianapolis, Indiana
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 24
Family Stress Rank: 130
Financial Stress Rank: 23
Work Stress Rank: 28
Total Score: 55.13
Bottom Line: Indianapolis, Indiana
The crime rate in Indianapolis is among the highest in the United States, which explains the health and safety stress rating, and about 15 percent of Central Indianans live in poverty.
The city is the capital of Indiana, which also explains the high work-stress ranking.
27. Newport News, Virginia
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 72
Family Stress Rank: 112
Financial Stress Rank: 10
Work Stress Rank: 20
Total Score: 55.54
Bottom Line: Newport News, Virginia
Norfolk, which is just 26 miles from Newport News, ranks fifth on the list of most hours worked per week. So it wouldn’t be stunning to see that stress spill over into the Newport News area, particularly since Norfolk, Newport News and Virginia Beach make up a television market.
Newport News’ jobless rate is higher than average for Virginia, and 15.1 percent of the city lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
26. New York, New York
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 129
Family Stress Rank: 52
Financial Stress Rank: 29
Work Stress Rank: 4
Total Score: 55.66
Bottom Line: New York, New York
It’s perhaps no surprise that a city that dubs itself as one that “never sleeps” is high on the list of most stressed cities. New York boasts the highest median housing cost in the nation, and its major industries are high-stakes finances and angst-inducing media.
It’s a wonder New York is even this low on the list.
25. Chicago, Illinois
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 85
Family Stress Rank: 49
Financial Stress Rank: 41
Work Stress Rank: 7
Total Score: 55.89
Bottom Line: Chicago, Illinois
Chicago gets something of a bad wrap nationally, as its No. 85 ranking in health and safety stress indicates, but as the hub city for the Midwest, it carries other stressors.
Chicago residents are generally concerned with work-life balance, as the No. 7 work-stress ranking indicates, but things seem to be getting better. Chicago ranked No. 18 on this same list in 2018.
24. Columbus, Georgia
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 18
Family Stress Rank: 85
Financial Stress Rank: 13
Work Stress Rank: 90
Total Score: 56
Bottom Line: Columbus, Georgia
Columbus is one of the most dangerous small cities in the U.S., with violent crime and property crime well above the national average, according to Bestplaces.net.
Columbus also has a high poverty ranking, above 21 percent, which explains the financial stress rating.
23. Augusta, Georgia
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 40
Family Stress Rank: 54
Financial Stress Rank: 12
Work Stress Rank: 88
Total Score: 56.04
Bottom Line: Augusta, Georgia
More than 23 percent of Augusta’s population lives in poverty, which explains its No. 12 financial stress rank.
But things are looking up: The city’s rating actually dropped four spots from No. 19 in 2019.
22. Wilmington, Delaware
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 21
Family Stress Rank: 18
Financial Stress Rank: 40
Work Stress Rank: 62
Total Score: 56.26
Bottom Line: Wilmington, Delaware
Delaware is the 16th least stressed state in the nation, according to Wallethub, which makes it surprising to see a city from the First State on this list.
But Wilmington has the fifth highest divorce rate and has been among the most dangerous cities in the country over the past decade, which is why residents have family stress and health and safety stress.
21. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 64
Family Stress Rank: 15
Financial Stress Rank: 30
Work Stress Rank: 36
Total Score: 56.46
Bottom Line: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee has the third lowest job-security rate, which accounts for the city’s financial stress rank and family stress rank.
There is high poverty, too, since a high percentage of residents don’t have healthcare and don’t sleep well.
20. Huntington, West Virginia
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 20
Family Stress Rank: 103
Financial Stress Rank: 9
Work Stress Rank: 64
Total Score: 56.56
Bottom Line: Huntington, West Virginia
West Virginia has been ravaged by poverty and an opioid crisis, so it’s no wonder that Huntington, the state’s second largest city, would be among the nation’s most stressed.
Huntington is tied for first in the U.S. among cities in poor or fair health and has the third highest poverty rate in the nation.
19. Cincinnati, Ohio
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 7
Family Stress Rank: 69
Financial Stress Rank: 26
Work Stress Rank: 52
Total Score: 57.20
Bottom Line: Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati has an extremely high crime rate, well above the national average, and 62 percent of Hamilton County residents are overweight or obese, according to the CDC.
One in every three residents also lives in poverty, which explains the full scope of the city’s stress.
18. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 28
Family Stress Rank: 47
Financial Stress Rank: 31
Work Stress Rank: 14
Total Score: 57.57
Bottom Line: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia may not have the same cost of living as New York, Washington or Boston, but that doesn’t mean it’s exactly cheap to live in the City of Brotherly Love.
Add long work hours and traffic — along with the Eagles’ perpetual inconsistency — and it’s not hard to see why Philadelphia is a high-stress city.
17. Memphis, Tennessee
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 23
Family Stress Rank: 39
Financial Stress Rank: 8
Work Stress Rank: 92
Total Score: 57.97
Bottom Line: Memphis, Tennessee
Financial stress is a huge factor and leads to other stressors coming out.
For instance, Memphis has the highest crime rate, which is a correlation of the financial stress and creates the city’s high family stress and health and safety stress rank.
16. Shreveport, Louisiana
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 10
Family Stress Rank: 65
Financial Stress Rank: 19
Work Stress Rank: 45
Total Score: 58.13
Bottom Line: Shreveport, Louisiana
Shreveport has the fourth lowest job security rate in the U.S., which plays into the city’s financial stress.
Plus, the COVID-19 pandemic factored heavily into Shreveport’s spot at No. 10 in the health and safety stress category.
15. Houston, Texas
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 52
Family Stress Rank: 11
Financial Stress Rank: 28
Work Stress Rank: 17
Total Score: 58.46
Bottom Line: Houston, Texas
Ironically, the fact Houston is right in the line of devastating hurricanes each year does not contribute heavily to the stress in Southeast Texas. Yet the trappings of living in the largest city in the south does get to Houstonians.
A study by Kisi found that Houston ranks No. 2 on the list of most overworked people, which might also factor into Houston’s No. 11 ranking in Wallethub’s family stress category.
14. Charleston, West Virginia
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 2
Family Stress Rank: 120
Financial Stress Rank: 38
Work Stress Rank: 8
Total Score: 58.57
Bottom Line: Charleston, West Virginia
Charleston is tied for first in the nation with Huntington, West Virginia, for its number of residents in poor health, which is where the No. 2 ranking in the health and safety category comes from.
Wallethub found West Virginia to be the fourth most stressed state in the country in 2021, ranking first in health and safety stress and fourth in money-related stresses, so it’s no surprise the state’s largest city would reflect that.
13. Toledo, Ohio
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 6
Family Stress Rank: 36
Financial Stress Rank: 17
Work Stress Rank: 87
Total Score: 58.65
Bottom Line: Toledo, Ohio
Toledo ranks No. 5 on the lowest average night sleep, which undoubtedly is the cause of its sixth place ranking in health and safety.
Toledo’s stress score has gone up since 2018, but its place on the list has since fallen from No. 5 to No. 13, a sign of just how much more stressed the rest of the country is.
12. Akron, Ohio
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 11
Family Stress Rank: 37
Financial Stress Rank: 11
Work Stress Rank: 63
Total Score: 59.16
Bottom Line: Akron, Ohio
Akron actually ranks No. 5 for having the most affordable housing of the 182 cities studied, but that is countered by the fact the city has the fourth lowest average night’s sleep among the municipalities on the list.
Also, the fact Akron residents aren’t seeing a return on their housing investments is a likely cause of the city’s No. 11 ranking in financial stress.
11. Montgomery, Alabama
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 17
Family Stress Rank: 61
Financial Stress Rank: 3
Work Stress Rank: 86
Total Score: 59.26
Bottom Line: Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery is the first Alabama city to appear on the list, even though Wallethub deemed the state to be the most stressed in 2017.
Residents of Montgomery have the fifth lowest median credit score, and like much of the state, it deals with low-wage work and poverty.
10. Jackson, Mississippi
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 13
Family Stress Rank: 7
Financial Stress Rank: 20
Work Stress Rank: 81
Total Score: 59.27
Bottom Line: Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson is the first Mississippi city on the list, even though it’s also among the highest stressed states in the nation. Jackson ranks fourth in the nation in lowest median credit score, and like the rest of the state, it has dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks.
Plus, its location amidst the Gulf Coast region adds annual stress during hurricane season.
9. Mobile, Alabama
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 9
Family Stress Rank: 90
Financial Stress Rank: 6
Work Stress Rank: 53
Total Score: 59.75
Bottom Line: Mobile, Alabama
Mobile, like port cities along the Gulf of Mexico, is annually blasted by hurricanes and tropical storms, which leaves a damaging mental impact each year.
Add to that the fact that nearly one in four Mobile residents live in poverty, and you can see why Mobile is so high on this list.
8. St. Louis, Missouri
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 41
Family Stress Rank: 43
Financial Stress Rank: 2
Work Stress Rank: 48
Total Score: 59.78
Bottom Line: St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is regularly one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S., and it ranks third in the country in crime rate, according to Wallethub.
Add the fact that nearly 40 percent of St. Louis children live in poverty, according to BizJournal, and you have a recipe for anxiety.
7. New Orleans, Louisiana
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 8
Family Stress Rank: 40
Financial Stress Rank: 16
Work Stress Rank: 24
Total Score: 60.44
Bottom Line: New Orleans, Louisiana
It’s not all “good times” in New Orleans. While the city has rebounded admirably from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, that storm still left a scar on the city, and the threat of hurricanes annually taxes the region.
Add the high crime, smoking rates and the city’s robust (read: caloric) food scene, and you start to see how quickly the stress can build up.
6. Baltimore, Maryland
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 45
Family Stress Rank: 12
Financial Stress Rank: 7
Work Stress Rank: 9
Total Score: 62.03
Bottom Line: Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore has enjoyed something of a resurgence, building up the Inner Harbor as a destination for tourists, but away from the shiny and nice section is still a hard and depleted city where people are trying to get by.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the city has also jumped 15 spots in the past year as already-stressed inhabitants have been sent to the brink due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
5. Newark, New Jersey
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 43
Family Stress Rank: 30
Financial Stress Rank: 4
Work Stress Rank: 6
Total Score: 62.37
Bottom Line: Newark, New Jersey
Newark is only about 15 miles west of New York, meaning it’s in the same insanely priced housing market. Yet, Newark doesn’t have the same industry, and many who work in the city commute to the wealthy suburbs of Northern New Jersey.
This leaves Newark as a crime hotbed after dark, and residents rank No. 2 in lowest median credit score and lowest average number of hours slept.
4. Gulfport, Mississippi
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 5
Family Stress Rank: 20
Financial Stress Rank: 18
Work Stress Rank: 10
Total Score: 62.39
Bottom Line: Gulfport, Mississippi
According to Wallethub, Mississippi is the fifth most stressed state in the country, so it’s not that stunning that Gulfport is the second Mississippi city in the top 10.
Gulfport has been affected by natural disasters, specifically hurricanes since it sits right on the Gulf of Mexico, which taxes the region’s psyche.
3. Birmingham, Alabama
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 4
Family Stress Rank: 1
Financial Stress Rank: 15
Work Stress Rank: 71
Total Score: 62.40
Bottom Line: Birmingham, Alabama
Another Alabaman city to make the list, Birmingham has actually seen a resurgence in recent years, with a hot new food scene and historic monuments underway.
But it’s high family stress and health and safety stress rankings are keeping this city in a high spot on this list.
2. Detroit, Michigan
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 1
Family Stress Rank: 3
Financial Stress Rank: 5
Work Stress Rank: 97
Total Score: 64.96
Bottom Line: Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is annually among the nation’s most dangerous cities and ranks No. 1 in the U.S. in lowest median credit score, least amount of hours slept and highest poverty level.
All of these undoubtedly feed the nation’s second highest divorce rate.
1. Cleveland, Ohio
Health & Safety Stress Rank: 3
Family Stress Rank: 4
Financial Stress Rank: 1
Work Stress Rank: 35
Total Score: 66.93
Bottom Line: Cleveland, Ohio
Ohio, and specifically Northeastern Ohio, has been depressed over the past 20 or so years, as industry has moved out of Cleveland to other, cheaper parts of the country and beyond. Cleveland has been slow to adapt to this shift, specifically compared to neighboring Pittsburgh, and that’s had a negative impact.
Thus, Cleveland has the highest divorce rate and second highest poverty rate, which is why the fine people there are the most stressed in the nation.