Psychology Today magazine made this observation about stress: “A little bit of stress … can be exciting — it keeps us active and alert.”
But what about the other kind of stress, which experts refer to as “dirty stress”? That which goes far beyond exciting, and keeps a person awake at night and on edge during the day.
The personal-finance website WalletHub has analyzed 150 cities across the United States to determine which are the least stressful, and those that present conditions and situations falling just short of screaming hysteria.
Actually, you won’t need a degree in anything to figure out pretty much where WalletHub’s experts are taking us. And here’s why it’s obvious — as a general rule, the closer you get to a big city, the higher your stress level. Anyone who has driven from here down the coast to the Los Angeles Basin knows all about high stress levels.
The top three on WalletHub’s most-stressed-cities list are, in descending order, Newark, New Jersey; Detroit, Michigan; and Cleveland, Ohio. Those seem to be no-brainers, considering bad weather, shrinking economies and, well, just not much soul-lifting stuff to gaze upon.
The rest of the top-10 are Jackson, Mississippi; Miami, Florida; Birmingham, Alabama; San Bernardino, California; Rochester, New York; Augusta, Georgia; and Shreveport, Louisiana.
We’ve been to all those places, and we can attest to their qualifications for making WalletHub’s most-stressed cities.
The flip side is interesting, too. Fremont, California, has the least-stressed residents. Irvine is in this group. Also in the top-10 least-stressful cities are places like Scottsdale and Gilbert, Arizona, and Boise, Idaho.
Funny we should mention driving into Los Angeles, because drivers in Greensboro, N.C., have stress levels far below drivers in L.A. Sioux Falls, S.D., has a jobless rate nearly five times lower than Detroit.
Here’s a possible explanation for Fremont being least stressful — it has the nation’s lowest divorce rate, evidence that marital harmony contributes to a relatively stress-free life, or vice-versa.
If you value health, stay clear of Corpus Christie, Texas, which has the nation’s greatest number of people in poor health.
We bring all this up because events, both man-caused and natural, have brought America’s stress levels to new highs over the past decade, a phenomenon that manifests itself in so many ways.
The ascendency of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency is a man-caused reason for higher stress levels, as Trump can’t seem to separate himself from the glory days of “The Apprentice.” It sometimes seems the president’s real ambition is to be able to shout “You’re fired!” to the human race. And there’s always the threat of a deranged American opening fire on crowds of innocent citizens.
The natural-disaster factor is also painfully evident. If it’s not killer hurricanes along the Gulf Coast and in the Caribbean, it’s killer wildfires in California. All across middle America are tornadoes and flooding after spring thaws.
Is it any wonder our stress levels are rising? But therein lies a problem, a big one. Chronic stress leads to damaging health effects, and when it affects more than 100 million Americans, as experts say it does, people lose work time, costing the national economy more than $300 billion a year in squandered productivity.
We would have loved to make this a good news, bad news essay, but that simply won’t fly, in part because President Trump’s bellicose tweet storms have at least two nations threatening war, quite possibly of a nuclear variety.
Have a nice weekend anyway.