By ASHLEY DICKSON
Out of 114 mid-size metro areas in the nation, the Provo-Orem area anchors the top spot for the least stressful community.
Researchers at Sperling’s BestPlaces studied nine factors associated with stress, including unemployment rate, divorce rate, violent and property crime rates, alcohol consumption, self-reported “poor mental health” and suicide rate.
Bert Sperling, president of the research company, said the places that come out well in the study are often places that can be identified as university towns.
“One of the things we looked at is the unemployment rate,” Sperling said. “Two places with stable economies are college towns and county governments.”
Sperling said unemployment rate is key in determining stress level.
“Not only are people out of work, but the crime rate rises and tax revenues go down, which means less money for the poor and school funding is cut,” Sperling said.
Although the study shows that a university setting decreases the city’s stress level, some students feel differently.
“I think people tend to be pretty stressed out since we’re at a university level,” said Jonathan Abelmann, a student who works as a lab assistant at BYU’s Stress Management and Biofeedback Lab. “It’s a launch pad for our lives.”
Abelmann said he has seen that BYU students are not only pressured by their peers, but their families as well.
“Everybody likes to keep the highest standards,” he said. “People tend to compete and try to be the best of the best.”
The types of stress students experience were displayed in the study. Sperling said the category that was the most stressful in Provo was the poor mental health state, which is self reported.
The stress that students experience probably isn’t general to Provo, Abelmann said.
“I think it’s a good environment,” he said. “I think the fact that we’re out here in the mountains and there are outdoors things to do and plenty of people to hang out with … makes it more enjoyable and more comfortable for those who are here.”
Brittany Cribbs, a sophomore from Houston, Texas, said she thinks students in Provo experience less stress than students in other college towns because there isn’t as much partying.
“College students are all kind of in the same boat with studying and taking tests,” Cribbs said. “It decreases my stress level if I’m with other people who are going through the same kinds of things.”
Other good indicators of stress are divorce rate and suicide rate, Sperling said. Of the 114 mid-size cities, Provo had the lowest divorce rate. Part of that could be attributed to the religious tendencies in Utah, where it’s less likely that there will be divorces.
The study did not take religion into account, but Sperling said religion and other new factors will eventually be included in the annual study.
Galveston, Texas, was rated the most stressful city in the mid-size category. As for large metro areas, Tacoma, Wash., won the spot for most stressful city and Albany, N.Y., ranks as the least stressful area. Detailed results of the study are published online at www.bestplaces.net.