As it turns out, the Bay Area city most likely to cause emotional consternation is not San Francisco or any hot spot in Silicon Valley but instead Oakland, which is the “most stressed” city in the region and one of the most stressed in the country.
Or at least so says San Mateo-based job site Zippia, which ranked 100 U.S. cities by their level of abiding anxiety and found Oakland surprisingly worked up these days.
Strictly speaking, Zippia’s research methodology did not involve actually asking anyone in any city how they felt, so the rankings are more of a projection.
Instead, the company considered census data for factors likely to stress people out, like commute times and unemployment. Behold:
In order to measure how stressed out a city is, we chose a set of six criteria that reflect how sleepless people are: Long commute times, unemployment, hours worked, population density, home price to income ratio, percent uninsured population.
The higher any of these was, the more stressful the people of the city are. Our data is from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey for 2013-2017. [...] These ranks were then averaged into one stressed out score. The lower the score the more stressed out city in America.
Bay Area residents can probably already spot at least one flaw in this approach: The majority of San Franciscans rent, but Zippia considered only “home price,” not median rent.
While the two go hand in hand, renting introduces additional variables—rent-controlled homes may spare some people from fretting about how to pay up each month, or conversely may increase anxiety as they worry about how to keep perpetuating the arrangement.
In any case, East Los Angeles topped the list in California for this stress test, coming in fourth nationwide, with Inglewood notching just below that in fifth place.
In 19th place, Oakland is Northern California’s first entry on the list. San Francisco came in 28th place—lower than one might expect, but still not good considering that the original reference pool contained 306 cities coast to coast.
San Jose landed even lower in 91st place, behind Bay Area cities like Richmond (45th), Vallejo (75th), and Fairfield (89th).
There seems to be particular interest in trying to quantify stress with internet researchers these days. Last year the personal finance site Wallet Hub conducted a similar study considering factors like hours worked, credit scores, job security, and poverty rate.
In that survey, Oakland came in just 112th out of 182 cities. San Francisco was 128th, and San Jose 175th. The number one spot went to Detroit.
Forbes, on the other hand, dubbed LA the country’s top stress spot and put SF in seventh place.
The conflicting answers aren’t really surprising, in part due to the different methods applied but also simply because there’s a lot to go around.
When Gallup pollsters eschewed trying to model stress off economic data and instead simply asked people how anxious they felt on average in 2017, 79 percent of Americans said they either “frequently” or “sometimes” encounter stress in their day to day lives.
Only 17 percent said “rarely,” and only four percent “never.”