If it seems like life is getting more stressful: it kind of is.
In March 2022, the American Psychological Association (APA) revealed that 41% of U.S. adults say their stress levels have increased since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic two years earlier. Post-pandemic economic effects and the invasion of Ukraine are among the factors impacting a population still sensitive from years of living in “survival mode.”
The stats were profound but not surprising. Anybody who has dialed into Twitter lately will have got an eyeful of America’s state of mind. Twitter is the place where users go to shout when there’s no one else around to listen.
And while the APA report also taught us that the young, Latino adults, and parents are experiencing higher stress than other groups, Twitter offers up-to-the-minute micro-reports on who’s feeling stressed about what – and where. So, PlushCare has analyzed millions of tweets concerning common sources of stress to find which U.S. states are most stressed and the aspects of modern life that trigger anxiety and stress the most.
What We Did
PlushCare analyzed four million geotagged tweets from 340 major U.S. cities that matched search terms in the following categories: money, careers, relationships, education, social media, and the news. We analyzed the stress level of each tweet using a stress detection tool developed at Wolverhampton University, TensiStrength, and calculated the percentage of stressed tweets overall and in each category in every state.
Hawaii is the most-stressed state overall, with a 45.31% stress rate.
South Carolina is the least-stressed state (36.99%).
Oakland in California is the most-stressed city overall (47.35%).
Santa Clarita in California is the most-stressed city in any category, with a 63.45% stress rate for social media topics.
Western States Among America’s Most Stressed
The west is stressed. Perhaps surprisingly, Hawaii is the most stressed state in the U.S., while Alaska – technically the westernmost state – is in fifth place with a stress rate of 44.05%. Utah, Nevada, and Oregon are ranked between Alaska and Hawaii, while laidback west coast Californians are number 11 – on average, 0.02% more stressed than New Yorkers.
News and relationships are among the topics pushing the west’s buttons. While the west coast is said to offer better work-life balance and weather, the flipside of this is having more balls to juggle while coping with the heat. Hot weather can cause higher levels of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’), nausea, and palpitations – as well as making it hard to get as much sleep as you need.
Money Worries Peak in Montana
Few things can change a person’s relationship with the outside world as assuredly as financial worries. A tight money situation can impact every area of your life, from relationships and work to your home and personal security. Our relationship with the very concept of money can change the way we respond to economic precarity. Rick Kahler, co-founder of the Financial Therapy Association, suggests that talking with a therapist “frees us up to start adopting new behaviors that are in our best interest.”
We found the highest stress levels in Montana where – like elsewhere – a disproportionate amount of lockdown-related economic stress fell to women. A survey by Montana State University has revealed that 70% of women were stressed by the economic implications of Covid, compared to 50% of men. “It was incredibly stressful because you were trying to keep up with work and your clients and trying to keep the kids going and try to maintain some normalcy in their lives, too,” said Megan Terry, a Montanan landscape architect. “I can say I’ve never had such bad anxiety.”
New Hampshire Experiences America’s Worst Career Stress
Work stress is not a simple issue. Aside from anything else, the knock-on effects of stress on general health may cost around $190 billion each year in healthcare costs. But in a society that’s founded on the contradictory values of hard work, self-sacrifice, and personal accomplishment, it’s no wonder that professionals are choosing to ‘quietly quit’ rather than address the causes of stress or quit for real.
Our study found that New Hampshire is the most stressed state when it comes to careers. “Social workers in New Hampshire are leaving their jobs,” tweets one local. “And it is very hard to find qualified replacements. It amazes me how much incredible work they do under tremendous stress.”
Hawaiian Relationships Under Stress
For relationship stress, we assessed tweets mentioning different categories of romantic partners, family, and friends. One of the key aspects of this type of stress is that it is contagious. You may bring stress home from work, or the news may get you down, and it’s easy to let your behavior bring your close companions down, too. Stress caused by the relationship or external to it gets passed back and forth – and no one can get under our skin like those who know us best.
But children also suffer from stress – which can be among the most stressful situations for their parents. We found relationship stress to be most prevalent in Hawaii, where child anxiety and depression levels are soaring, and youth educational and economic conditions are among the worst in the U.S.
Montana Education Sector Suffers Post-Covid Stress
Whether you’re the teacher or the student, the education sector is a place of high pressure and expectation. Unfortunately, it is a vicious circle. Studies have shown that a lack of self-belief in students can lead to high stress levels, which impacts results and further diminishes self-belief. And unfortunately, efforts to address mental health issues in schools have been late and uncoordinated – which is not to detract from the good work that is now being done.
The state of Montana has a worrying 48.65% stress rate in relation to education. The added pressure of Covid-related school closures and reopening strategies has impacted parents, staff, and pupils alike. One local school administrator even undertook a 1700-mile journey within the state to survey the damage, reporting on a series of inflammatory community rallies that “served no purpose other than to provoke already tired and angry community members to vent that anger on their community school.”
Alaska Has Highest Level of Social Media Stress
Social media can be a portal for other sources of stress (relationships, news) while providing new ones, such as lifestyle envy, pressure to post, and sheer information overload. The Pew Research Center has shown social media stress to be higher among women and single people.
Social media stress is highest in Alaska, and this category has the highest cross-state average stress level in our study (47.85%). But we keep going back to social media because of its peculiar risk/reward paradigm: “One does not know how many likes a picture will get, who will ‘like’ the picture, and when the picture will receive likes. The unknown outcome and the possibility of a desired outcome can keep users engaged with the sites,” says psychologist Jacqueline Sperling.
Worst Levels of News-Related Stress in Oregon
Today’s news is “increasingly visual and shocking” and “exacerbates the viewer’s own personal worries, even when those worries are not directly relevant to the news stories being broadcast,” says Graham Davey, a professor emeritus of psychology at Sussex University. It is a situation that has only become more acute with the polarization of political opinion, coronavirus, and – most recently – the invasion of Ukraine.
Oregon suffers news-related stress the worst, according to our study. In fact, the entire news team of Portland’s KATU TV station took the day off on one Monday in September to participate in a trauma and stress management seminar – which probably worked out well for the viewers, too.
PlushCare's Expert Advice to Cope With Stress
Stress is a biological and psychological response to demanding situations and challenging circumstances we unconsciously deem as threats. It causes our body to release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, increasing our blood pressure and our heart rate. When going untreated, chronic stress can develop and, over time, it can contribute to a range of physical and mental disorders – from a weakened immune system and high blood pressure to sexual dysfunction and anxiety disorders.
It is key to tackle the effects of stress the moment we experience them, but it is also important to understand that everybody experiences stress in their own way. And, as the American Institute of Stress points out, the methods that some people use to cope with stress can themselves be stressful when tried by others. However, it is worth trying some of the following techniques to see what works for you:
Limit the time you spend consuming news media.
Exercise regularly and maintain a balanced, healthy diet.
Develop a bedtime routine that will allow you to get a good night’s sleep each night.
Talk to people you trust and take the time to foster healthy relationships with your loved ones.
Practice deep breathing, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.
Acknowledge your stress levels and reach out for professional help if it’s getting worse.
For more advice on how to cope with stress, we recommend reading the latest guidelines from the CDC available here.
Explore and Compare Stress Levels Across U.S. Cities and States
Stress in the U.S. is high, with one-third to half of the tweets in every state/category combination in our study showing signs of stress. Our full data is available in the table below, which you can sort by category.
METHODOLOGY & SOURCES
To find out which states are the most stressed, we retrieved geotagged tweets from 340 major cities in the U.S. Then, to discover which subjects stress America the most, a tweet category was assigned to each tweet depending on the search query that returned it.
These are the considered terms for each of the selected categories:
- Social Media: 'TikTok is', 'Whatsapp is', 'Twitter is', 'Facebook is', 'Snapchat is'
- News: 'news story','news stories', 'the news cycle', 'today’s news', 'the news'
- Career: 'my career', 'my job', 'my boss', 'my retirement', 'my colleagues', 'my workmates', 'my work assignment', 'my working hours'
- Education: 'my exams', 'my degree', 'my studies', 'my teacher', 'my lecturer', 'my classmates'
- Money: 'my bills', 'my paycheck', 'my salary', 'my wage', 'my finances', 'my bank account', 'my investments', 'my savings'
- Relationships: 'my gf', 'my bf', 'my wife', 'my husband', 'my girlfriend', 'my boyfriend', 'my family', 'my friends'
After gathering the tweets, we analyzed their stress level by using a stress detection tool, TensiStrength, that estimates the level of stress of a text based on its wording. We considered a tweet to be stressed if its predicted stress value is equal to or lesser than -2.
Finally, we sorted the results based on the origin city and category.
The data was collected in August 2022.
PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.
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