Urban Fold

Stress City, U.S.A.

By looking at city data and quality-of-life measures, Forbes has created a list of the most stressful cities in the U.S. Chicago, Detroit and New York rank the highest.

"We examined the country's 40 largest U.S. Census-defined metropolitan statistical areas and looked at quality of life indicators. We tracked housing affordability based on the August 2008 National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing opportunity index and unemployment rates for the same month based on data provided by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. We also worked cost of living into our ranking by factoring in the price for one gallon of gas on Sept. 4 per a daily survey conducted by insurance company AAA."

"But consumers aren't fretting about these pressures in a vacuum. A city's environment can play a big role in how its citizens are able to cope with stress."

"In order to capture the way a city's environmental factors can impact nerves we looked at 2007 air quality using air monitoring data that states submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2003-05. Then we pulled the number of sunny days per year using 2007 data furnished by the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information service. Finally, we looked at population density based on 2007 data furnished by the U.S. Census Bureau to find the cities most squeezed for livable space."

Full Story: America's Most Stressful Cities



population density doesn't equal stress

Another questionable list from Forbes. I could take issue with a few of their parameters, but the most outrageous is population density. Never mind that perennial quality of life prizewinners Zurich and Geneva have comparable densities to the US cities listed, and or that Chicago and San Francisco were found to be some of the safest cities in the world. Maybe Forbes should have calculated the number of people living outside of walking distance from a park as a better measure.

Some Sensible Criteria For Forbes

I agree that high density does not necessarily cause stress. Neither does air pollution, at the levels that exist in most American cities. And using the number of sunny days as a criterion for stress is idiotic: I have never notices that Portland and Seattle are exceptionally stressful, though they have few sunny days.

More sensible criteria, based on things that actually do cause stress, would be:

- time lost in traffic congestion per person.
- auto-dependency, measured by the percent of people who do not have any shopping withing walking distance of their homes.
- length of the average work week.
- percent of people who do not have paid vacations or paid medical leave.
- percent of people who do not have health insurance.

With these criteria, Los Angeles would be much more stressful than Amsterdam, even though it has more sunny days.

Now, can anyone guess why Forbes, a business magazine, does not include things that actually cause Americans most stress, such as long work hours, lack of paid vacations, and lack of health insurance?

Charles Siegel

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