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THE LEAST AND MOST STRESSFUL CITIES INDEX 2021

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Data study looks at the least, and most, stressful stressful cities in the world, analysing a variety of indicators across governance, environment, finance and health to determine which cities have the most and least stressful living conditions for their inhabitants.

Here at VAAY, we’re focused on promoting inner balance and mindfulness in our community, and we know the effect someone’s environment can have on their mental health. There’s no doubting that we live in stressful times, dealing with circumstances that are often beyond our control, yet when we think about the sources of our daily stress it’s easy to focus on things that are small and fleeting. Likewise while we consider the significance of the daily pandemic news cycle, we can lose sight of the ever-present elements that surround us and impact our everyday lives. If we really are products of our environment, we wondered, why don’t we pay more attention to its influence on our state of mind?

With this question in mind, we carried out some research to determine the most and least stressful cities in the world, based on structural and environmental factors that are often ubiquitous, but sometimes overlooked, and can contribute to a person’s overall level of stress. The result is an index of 100 major global cities comprising over 15 factors, each ranked on a scale from most to least stressful. We hope to show which cities are leading the way in improving the wellbeing of their citizens and can be a source of inspiration to those cities lagging behind.

To begin the study, we considered which macro factors contribute to stress, narrowing them down to four broad categories. Next, we assessed over 500 cities from across the globe against a number of stress indicators in these categories, before removing those without reliable data, ending up with a final line-up of 100 cities. The selected cities are not necessarily the most and least stressful cities in the world; instead, they were chosen for their global comparability.

The first category looks at governmental factors that dictate levels of inclusion in a city, such as safety and security, gender and minority equality, and socio-political stability. These elements represent societal frameworks which are shaped by policy decisions and local laws, all of which can impact a person’s mindset.

Following this, we considered the effect of the physical environment around us, since it has been proven that high living density contributes to anxiety and stress. We did so by assessing population density, as well as pollution levels, weather patterns and the amount of traffic congestion in each city.

Some people say money is the root of all problems and, while we don’t completely agree – the pandemic has posed a few by itself – it is certainly a significant cause of stress for most people. To evaluate the impact of financial stress, we looked at unemployment rates, social security structures and the amount of disposable income a household has after tax and accommodation costs, adjusted for purchasing power parity, amongst other factors. Finally, we considered health and wellbeing, specifically looking at mental health and access to healthcare as influences on stress levels.

The final results show which cities overall have the most stressful social, environmental and economic conditions, and which cities lead the way in reducing the stress levels of their inhabitants.

The tables below display the global cities in the study ranked in order of most stressful to least stressful. Each individual column is filterable, and the full methodology explaining how each factor was evaluated is at the bottom of the page.

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