Stressful Seattle: HOW CAN THAT BE??!!

Peter Finch as the stressed-out TV guy in the 1976 movie  “Network”

Sometimes, good material just falls into my New To Seattle lap.

A new study out this week calls the Seattle metropolitan area one of the most stressful places in the country. Worse than New York. Worse than Chicago. Hell, even worst than Cleveland and Newark, N.J.

The list was compiled by Sperling’s, a Portland, Ore. research firm that cranks out various “best places” lists. But the outfit occasionally takes a walk on the dark side. The Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metro area came out No. 9 among the 50 largest metros, which collectively have about half the country’s population.  (In case you wonder, the most stressful was Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater while the least stressful was Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington).

This study can’t be dismissed by suggesting a bunch of people simply got together in a room and voted on worst places on the basis of personal experience like a bad meal in a restaurant. Sperling’s used government statistics drawn from a variety of studies to fashion its rankings.

There were a number of factors. And when you look at that list, you start to understand why Seattle was near the top. In fact, it’s stuff that I hear my fellow Seattleites kvetch about all the time.

Factors included unemployment, suicide rate, alcohol consumption, length of average commute, crime rates and “cloudy days annually” (229, the worst showing of any area on the list). There also a category called “mental health,” which drew on a federal Centers for Disease Control study that somehow calculated “days per month with poor mental health.” Another factor (I’m quoting here) was “number days in month without enough rest or sleep.” Yawn.

Seattle’s ranking was so unexpected that lead researcher Bert Sperling (he presumably owns the business) made a point of it in the press release announcing the study.

“The real surprise here is Seattle,” says Sperling.  “It isn’t a city we normally think of as stressful, but the divorces, suicides and alcohol use are near the 80th percentile for our study, commuting is painful, and crime is surprisingly high.”

I suppose Seattle would have fared better had mountain views, fresh fish, bicycle paths and state income tax rates been taken into account. But they weren’t. At least Sperling’s didn’t cite Seattle’s 9.5% sales tax, now the highest rate of big cities (tied with kumbaya Chicago). Nor did it use one insurance company’s conclusion that Seattle drivers are among the country’s worst, or the jaywalker arrest rate.

Now, including Seattle, I’ve lived in six of the 50 areas, and I have a pretty good familiarity with maybe 20 others. That’s more than half the list. Coffee consumption aside, the Seattle area does not strike me on a day-to-day basis as any hotbed of hyper-jittery folks with rising blood pressure, although they certainly obsess about the weather.


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Stressful Seattle: HOW CAN THAT BE??!! — 4 Comments

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