Americans these days are feeling more stressed out than ever before, according to a March 2022 poll sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA). The vast majority of respondents (87%) reported feeling stressed about increased prices of everyday items due to inflation (such as gas, energy bills, and groceries). Another top concern is rampant personal health issues, such as diminished physical activity, disturbed sleep, worsening mental health, and an increased reliance on unhealthy habits.
Considering that work takes up most people’s time and can interrupt sleep, keep you from the gym, and make or break your budget, we wanted to know what aspects of people’s work-life might be contributing. Given that such a large number of people appear to be seriously struggling with stress, we also wanted to know if the stress levels of American workers differed from state to state.
According to Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace report, 44% of global employees experience an unhealthy amount of daily stress. The most-stressed population demographic? Women working in the U.S. and Canada (62%). Not far behind them were American and Canadian men (52%). Despite workers in the U.S. and Canada being some of the most anxious in the world, they appear to be quite hopeful about their employment prospects and are the population who feel most engaged in their work. They also:
The U.S. and Canada are doing relatively well overall in terms of employment opportunities and job satisfaction. Yet more than half of North Americans reported experiencing significant levels of daily stress. Are there other work-related factors to consider? And as this information varies internationally, how might the state you live in influence these feelings?
To determine how stressful (or not) a given state would be to work in, we gathered data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). With this information, we created a ranking system that divided the most relevant factors contributing to a stressful working environment into three broad categories: work-related stress, money-related stress, and health-related stress.
The determining factors for each of these three stress categories include:
Average number of hours worked per week, statewide unemployment rates, and at-will or right-to-work employment laws.
Average hourly earnings, average weekly earnings, and income growth rate.
Percentage of adults who report walking or biking to work, percentage of adults meeting aerobic and muscle strengthening guidelines, percentage of adults who engage in no leisure-time physical activity.
Using this information, we scored the individual aspects of each category, where a lower score indicated a relatively higher stress level. The state with the lowest combined score was determined to be where people feel the most stressed out. We also totaled the scores for each category to identify where states are — and aren’t — meeting their citizen’s needs.
Stressors related to relationships, finances, work, and health are typically easy to identify. The daily hassles, too — such as running late, waiting in line, traffic, or spilling your coffee — are also relatively easy to notice. But not all factors that increase daily stress levels are so obvious. Our study revealed that the state in which you live can also be a significant contributory factor.
Here are the top ten most stressful states to work in:
Eight of the top ten most stressful states to work in are located in the South. According to the CDC, one in four Americans is living with some form of disability — such as impaired mobility, cognition, hearing, or vision. Interestingly, the South has the highest percentage of people living with a disability, so for a significant proportion of people living in this region, it’s relatively safe to assume that life is more difficult (i.e., more stressful).
Nevada’s population found themselves undergoing the most stress, netting them the first place spot in our most stressful states. Minnesota, on the other hand, came in as the least stressful population. Below, you'll find a table depicting the rankings for all 50 states, both overall and by category.
Not every factor makes the same impact in each state. Throughout our analysis, we noticed a number of interesting comparisons, including:
The stress level of each state overall and for each category is determined by a range of factors, including both the ones we have analyzed and others, such as population density, the state of the housing market, and a given state’s minimum wage. Yet, it’s still certainly possible that the specific function of one’s job plays a crucial role.
As of 2019, the ten most stressful jobs in America (and their average salaries) were:
Half the jobs on this list come with an average annual salary of at least $60,000. States showing high levels of work-related stress but low levels of money-related stress — such as Vermont, Montana, Mississippi, and Idaho — might have a disproportionate number of high-stress jobs with higher pay, like airline pilots, public relations executives, or senior corporate executives.
The other half of the jobs on this list come with an average annual salary of less than $50,000, which could mean that states with equal levels of work-related stress and money-related stress — such as Connecticut, New Hampshire, Washington, Alaska, and Minnesota — have a higher number of high-stress jobs with low pay: military personnel, firefighters, taxi drivers, and so on.
Managing our jobs, our finances, and our overall health successfully can be a burdensome aspect of life. But, along with family and other personal relationships, they are three of the most important pillars of our existence. People in some states, we found, have a more difficult time managing these than others.
Our work-related stress ranking system came from national data on the average hours worked per week, statewide unemployment rates, and whether a given state is considered “at-will” or “right-to-work.” Considering how much work influences your quality of life, it’s unsurprising that four out of five states (save for Illinois) were also in the top ten.
You might think job security would be a significant factor in determining the work-related stress level of a given state, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. All of the states above are designated as “right-to-work” states, which means employees are allowed to work for unionized employers without joining the union (as opposed to “at-will” employment, which means you can quit or get fired at any time for almost any reason). Things like worker protections, pay, the kinds of jobs you might find, and how easy it is to get (and hold onto) a job are all more complicated and challenging in these states, too.
The amount of money-related stress experienced by each state was found by looking at their average hourly earnings, average weekly earnings, and income growth rate. Only two of these states (Mississippi and North Carolina) were also in the overall top ten.
Families in the West South Central region of the U.S. (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas) and the Mountain West region (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) have been hit with the highest rates of inflation in 2022. Prices on goods across the board for both regions are 14.9% higher in October 2022 than in January 2021. Yet, only one of the states with the most money-related stress comes from this group (New Mexico). Four other states from these regions — Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Nevada — are in the top ten for overall stress, suggesting that inflation rates may influence aspects of our lives other than just how much we have to stretch a dollar at the end of the month.
Inflation rates across the U.S. are the highest they have been in 40 years, with the cost of necessities like food, rent, and gasoline having increased the most. Financial stress, too, can put a strain on more than just people’s bank accounts; money-related stress can often generate or fuel feelings of depression, shame, anger, or fear.
When stress or other negative emotions related to finances inevitably arise, there are some things you can do to renegotiate your budget:
Of course, this doesn’t solve systemic problems like a stagnant minimum wage or rent increases that outpace your annual raises. You can’t out-budget poor pay or few opportunities to build savings. But figuring out how to make your paycheck go further for you month-to-month might alleviate some of the stress associated with your financial situation.
How much you move has been repeatedly shown to influence how you feel. We deciphered the percentage of adults who walked or biked to work, met the CDC’s aerobic and muscle strengthening guidelines, and engaged in no leisure-time physical activity to determine the level of health-related stress for each state. There's a clear link between how much you can move and how much stress you feel: only one of these states (Kentucky) was not also in the overall top ten.
All five of these states are located in the South, a region with the highest percentage of people living with some form of disability in the U.S. The ruralness of a given area, too, has been shown to negatively affect the overall health conditions of its inhabitants, ultimately leading to higher rates of disability. People living in the rural South commonly face hardships such as:
The populations of these areas are often older than average, as well. And in shrinking areas, where disabled inhabitants are less likely to or have more difficulty migrating, the percentage of inhabitants living with a disability only tends to increase over time.
About one-third of adults in America (34%) find their daily stress to be overwhelming, according to another survey conducted by the APA. Specific demographics, however, reported feeling the grip of day-to-day anxiety more than others. For example, 62% of women between 18 and 34 claimed to feel completely overwhelmed most days by stress, as was the case for 51% of men in the same age group. A significant proportion of Black men (42%) and members of the LGBTQIA+ community (50%) of all ages also reported feeling disproportionately high levels of overwhelming stress.
The prolonged over-activation of the nervous system that occurs when a person is suffering from long-term or chronic stress can put a tremendous amount of strain on the body and can often result in physical, emotional, or behavioral symptoms, such as:
As we discussed earlier, health problems and disabilities can increase overall stress levels as we try to navigate a world that isn’t always friendly to our needs. Low pay means it’s harder to cover healthcare costs, and being completely reliant on cars to get to and from work means it’s harder to walk the stress off. All of these features are connected, so supporting our health from the bottom up is essential.
For all of us — but especially for those individuals who are more prone or exposed to daily stress — the APA recommends several mitigation techniques:
Of course, many of these steps are difficult to follow in states with low wages, few natural spaces safe to explore, or no job alternatives you could take to escape a toxic workplace. When you can’t change the world around you, being mindful of your personal triggers can allow you to circumvent minor anxieties or annoyances before they become stressful. When you feel yourself getting wound up, try doing whatever you think might help you relax:
These types of down-regulation exercises can be highly beneficial in the short term. But the best way to mitigate long-term stress is committing to an active, healthy lifestyle:
Stress and stress management is a permanent part of life for most people. You can reduce your daily stress level and improve your quality of life through increased focus, relationships, and self-control. Don’t let your stress become unmanageable. If life gets too overwhelming, consider seeking guidance from a mental health professional.
We created a metadata-ranking system to determine the most and least stressful states to work in within the United States. We based our rankings on three major categories: work-related stress, money-related stress, and health-related stress. Then, we scored the individual aspects of each category (a lower score indicating a relatively higher level of stress), and the state with the lowest combined score (on a scale of 1 to 50) was determined to be the most stressful state. We also totaled up the scores to determine which state did the worst or best in each category.
Innerbody Research is committed to providing objective, science-based suggestions, and research to help our readers make more informed decisions regarding health and wellness. We invested the time and effort into creating this report was to explore which states had “better” or “worse” conditions for employment (e.g., which states were the most or least stressful to work in). We hope to reach as many people as possible by making this information widely available. As such, please feel free to share our content for educational, editorial, or discussion purposes. We only ask that you link back to this page and credit the author as Innerbody.com.
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