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These Are The 10 Most Stressed Out States In America

Do you feel like you’re at your breaking point? It could be because you live in a stress danger zone.

Chris Kolmar

Chief Armchair Economist

161 articles, 137 comments


Most Stressed States Map

Get the image version of the map here

You, America, are way stressed out.

And you have a right to be, what with getting over the housing bubble, dealing with ever-longer commutes, and working longer and longer hours. But which states take being stressed to the next level?

It turns out the good people of Florida have earned the dubious distinction of being the most stressed out in the country. They are at the top of the pack of the 10 most stressed out states:

1. Florida
2. Georgia
3. New Jersey
4. California
5. Nevada
6. Illinois
7. New York
8. Maryland
9. North Carolina
10. Arizona

Finding that Florida tops this list adds a Saturday Night Scientific basis behind the @_FloridaMan twitter account.

How We Measured Stress (Without Stressing Out)

In order to measure stress, we selected a set of six criteria that reflect its root causes for most people and used them to look at the lower 48 states:

  • Percentage of population with a long commute (over 20 minutes)
  • Unemployment
  • Hours worked
  • Population density
  • Percentage of income spent on housing
  • Percentage of population without health insurance

The higher any of these was, the more stressful the people of the state are.

Our data is from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey for 2008-2012.

We ranked each state from 1 to 48 (with one being the most stressed side of the scale) in the six individual criteria. These ranks were then averaged into one Big Deal Score, the lowest of which was the most stressed out state in America.

Below, we’ll take a look at the standout stress stats for each top 10 most stressed state, and wrap the whole thing up with a detailed ranking of all 48 we analyzed.

1. Florida: Unemployment And No Health Insurance Make For A Bad Combo

Unemployment

I have great memories of visiting my grandparents in Florida every summer as a kid. We’d build sandcastles on the beach and play shuffleboard.

Apparently I was completely oblivious to all of the stressed out grown-ups around me worried that I’d be eaten by sharks. More likely, they worried about paying for the hospital bills after I was bitten by a shark.

Florida ranked as the third worst state when it came to both the percentage of the population without health insurance (25.8 percent) and unemployment rate (11.3 percent).

2. Georgia: Life Isn’t As Peachy As Georgians Would Like You To Think

Long Commutes

Georgians walk the walk when it comes to the new fad of “busy boasting”. They work the most hours on average of any state’s residents in our top 10.

That drive to keep working is probably out of the stress of losing a job. The unemployment rate for Georgia is in the top 20 percent of the 48 states we analyzed.

On a relatively high note, it’s pretty cheap to live in Georgia, so at least you don’t have to pay to be stressed out.

3. New Jersey: Someone’s Gonna Have To Leave, Capiche?

Unemployment

New Jersey is known for two things around the country: Having the most people per square mile and having stupid-expensive property tax. And in true New Jersey style, these two things are points of pride.

If you don’t want to live close to your neighbors, go out to the boonies in Pennsylvania. You don’t want to pay an extraordinarily large amount of money to have a residence in the state, you should start saving.

Because when New Jersey does something, even stress, it never half-asses it.

4. California Girls Know How To Pay Too Much For Housing

Unemployment

California is kind of like the Apple MacBook of the states. It’s branded as an awesome, surfer heaven where you can strike it big.

In actuality, you can’t afford to live by yourself in a nice part of town unless you’ve been working for eight years or you’re a superstar computer programmer. The proof is in the source code: Californians spend more of their income on housing (26 percent) than any other state besides NJ.

To make matters worst, California can’t even beat NJ on the housing cost front. Must be super stressful.

5. You Can Hit The Stress Jackpot In Nevada

Unemployment

Nevada owns the second highest unemployment rate in the county of 11.8 percent, which is only trumped by Michigan’s 12.5 percent. That leaves a lot of time to take in the scenes and the slots in Vegas.

The relative lack of work allows everyone in Nevada to enjoy their space. Their population density ranked in the bottom 20 percent, leaving plenty of room to hang out with the cows and cacti.

Or, you know, whatever it is that people do in Nevada…

6. Illinois’s Level Of Stress Comes From The Most Fundamental Stress Of All

Unemployment

No, not being married: commute time. Being married is great—who would call that stressful?

But commutes are the worst. They consistently survey as the absolute worst part of your day because:

1. They are variable from one day to the next
2. You can literally do nothing in them besides listen to the radio
3. You’re going/coming from somewhere you’d much rather be

Illinois ranked fifth in commutes longer than 20 minutes with more than 61 percent of residents taking on such an arduous journey each day. That’s 61 percent of people just stuck smashing their horns with their foreheads on repeat. Every. Day.

7. New York Is “New Jersey Lite” When It Comes To Stress

Unemployment

Both New York and New Jersey scored highly (unfortunately?) in the same categories:

1. Population density
2. Income spent on housing

It’s just that New Jersey scores way better on both categories. So here’s something NJ can always brag about to New York.

Enough about NJ superiority. New York specializes in having the second worst commute times in the country. That’s what happens when you build a giant moat around the most densely packed city in the county. It takes a while to get in and out.

8. Maryland: Where You Can Blame All Of Your Problems On D.C.

Unemployment

Maryland actually fared alright for four of our six criteria, but it took the tops in commute time, where almost 70 percent of people spend longer than 20 minutes getting to work.

Maryland’s high level of population density (fifth highest) undoubtedly contributes to the commute problems. However, I’m pretty sure both of these stress inducing factors stem from Washington, D.C. Namely:

  • Population Density: Why would anyone want to live in Maryland? It must be to be close to D.C.
  • Commute: You have a ton of people trying to get into DC everyday from all over the state.

We could probably get Maryland to calm down a bit by moving the nation’s capital to where it should be: Hawaii.

9. North Carolina: Above Average Stress About Everything, Worried About Nothing

Unemployment

North Carolina is my kind of place, that’s probably why I live there.

It scores kind of high on the number of people per square mile, but housing costs are below average. People work a bunch, but commutes aren’t the worst.

North Carolina to me is kind of like the Goldilocks of stressed states. She’s freaking stressed because she’s in a house owned by bears, but not stressed to the point where she’s not going to take a nap.

10. Arizona: The Kid Picked Last For This List And No One Knows How He Got Here

Unemployment

When I picture stressed out places, I go with NYC, D.C., the OC, basically anything with a C in it. Oh, and Texas, definitely Texas.

Arizona has none of those attributes and seems like a state that just minds its own business. I mean, sure, it’s like one million degrees all the time, the haboobs can kill you, and scorpions are waiting to end your life, but those weren’t the direct criteria we were measuring.

Arizona is basically a slightly less stressed version of North Carolina. The commutes are worse, but all the desert gives you a lot of space to breathe.

I Guess You Just Can’t Have It All…

Unless, that is, you’re living in North Dakota. North Dakota just dominated five of the six categories. The people are only stressed there because they are working a ton of hours getting rich on sucking oil out of the ground for the rest of society.

So, if North Dakotans’ real stress is figuring out what to do with all this oil money floating in, I have a suggestion:

1. Go buy a house in Florida;
2. Build sand castles on the beach;
3. Play some shuffleboard;
4. And not freak out about sharks.

Most Stressed Out States In America

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posted on: June 6, 2014
100,168 views, 17 comments

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17 Comments

  1. don

    I’m in the 65-74 yo category, living in FL, 4 years after a moving from NJ. My stress is still there but not in FL, except for their conservative//tea bag leaning.

  2. MissKatiesAunt

    So where are Hawaii and Alaska? Granted, the map is of the contiguous states, but don’t they need to be counted, also?

  3. Josh

    These surveys really ought to separate large cities from the rest of their population. The “long commute” for Illinois is all Chicago, but there are plenty of other people who live in the state. I live in Champaign, IL, if I drove, it would take me about 20 minutes to get to work, but I take the bus, which is also about 20 minutes.

  4. Tony

    Agreed 100%. I can’t imagine how the results would look if NYC was separated from New York State. The NY Metro would far out-stress NJ (seeing as NJ is just it’s less-urbanized cousin), and NY State would probably drop to the median ranks of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

  5. Joseph Gembala

    Alaska and Hawaii are part of the United States and should be included. Why did you choose not to include them?

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Joseph Gembala

      really stupid reason -> They weren’t on the mapping software. When included in the data, they placed middle of of the pack and had very little impact on the overall rankings.

  6. Tom Shane

    Then go back up North. Say what you want about the South and it’s conservative leaning, but you don’t hear anybody saying they want to retire and move up North.

  7. Tag Rezac

    Chris, where did you get FL’s unemployment figure? BLS says 6.2% (http://www.bls.gov/lau/).

  8. Sheri

    Why would you use 2007 unemployment figures? And how in the world would anyone thing there are only 97 people per square mile in Texas but 352 per square mile in Florida???? That’s just absurd. Take it from someone who has lived both places – Dallas, and in Florida – it’s waaaay less stressful in Florida than Texas.

  9. Mike

    The “long commute times” in Illinois aren’t all from Chicago. That’s most of it, but a good part of it comes from southern Illinoisans attempting to get into St. Louis over bridges that are perpetually under construction or repair. The remedy is “build another bridge” which tied up traffic even worse while they were trying to build up. I really don’t miss the metro-east St. Louis area.

  10. Joe

    I live in Western NC. The ignorance and sheer stupidity of the ppl are a real stress.

  11. Shawn

    Just so I’m clear on the data: you didn’t actually measure the stress of level of the population directly, but extrapolated from other factors that one’s stress level would correlate with these external circumstances, right?

  12. Mark

    Why is population density stressful? Why are small houses stressful? Why are lower-cost neighbourhoods stressful? These inclusions imply that everyone’s goal is a big house and a car and a 30-minute drive for a carton of milk? That sounds like a stressful life to me…

  13. Skylor

    Alaska and my home state of Hawaii is part of the United States. Why are they not included in this so called “study or poll”? I don’t understand why in many of these so called “studies or polls” very often DO NOT include the 49th and 50th states!

    Have you all forgotten that Hawaii is no longer a KINGDOM or it’s own country? Or is it just pure ignorance in your part!!

 

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