Stress in New York City

Financial concerns are on the rise as a source of stress among residents of New York City.* There has been a significant increase since 2009 in the percentage of adults who cite the economy as a source of stress. Housing costs and concerns about personal health and safety are also mentioned more frequently as significant sources of stress since 2009. Overall, however, it appears that New Yorkers may be doing a better job at managing their stress — more than half say they are doing enough to manage their stress, fewer report unhealthy behaviors to manage stress and reported stress levels have been on the decline for the past several years. 

Nevertheless, a large number of New Yorkers say that they experience physical symptoms of stress and the majority report that they are not successful in their efforts to achieve healthy behaviors. 

  • New Yorkers are just as likely to say they have a “great deal” of stress (defined as an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale) as they are to report having “little or no” stress (defined as a 1, 2 or 3 on a 10-point scale). That is, 24 percent report having a “great deal” of stress and 24 percent report having “little or no” stress. One-third (34 percent) say their stress level has increased over the past year. 

  • In general, New Yorkers are reporting a steady decline in their stress levels. The average level of stress reported in New York City was a 6.1 on a 10-point scale in 2008, down to 5.7 in 2009 and 5.5 in 2010. Regardless of this reported decline, stress levels in New York City continue to exceed what residents say is a healthy level of stress — 3.7 on a 10-point scale. 

  • In New York City, there has been a significant increase since 2009 in the percentage of adults who cite the economy as a source of stress (75 percent of New York City residents cited the economy as a source of stress in 2010 compared with 58 percent in 2009). 

  • New Yorkers are more likely than Americans overall to cite the economy (75 percent vs. 65 percent), personal health concerns (63 percent vs. 52 percent), housing costs (64 percent vs. 52 percent) and personal safety (40 percent vs. 30 percent) as significant sources of stress. 

  • More than half of New York residents said they are doing enough to manage their stress (56 percent).

Stress on the Job

  • Compared with workers nationally, New Yorkers are less satisfied with their jobs (54 percent vs. 64 percent, 10 points below the national average) and less likely to recommend their workplace to others (44 percent vs. 53 percent).

  • Forty-one percent complain of stress on the job, and one-third (35 percent) say they intend to seek employment elsewhere in the next year — a level four points above the national average (31 percent).

Addressing Stress in the Big Apple

  • New Yorkers are more likely than Americans overall to report that they walk/exercise (62 percent vs. 48 percent) and meditate/do yoga (13 percent vs. 7 percent) to relieve their stress. 

  • Since 2008, there has been a significant decline in the number of New Yorkers who report eating to relieve stress (48 percent to 30 percent in 2010). 

  • There also has been a significant decline since 2008 in the percentage of New Yorkers who say they have skipped a meal as a result of stress (49 percent in 2008 compared with 31 percent in 2010). 

  • More than half of New York City residents say they eat healthy foods (56 percent say they eat healthy foods very often, almost always or always) and exercise regularly (58 percent say they exercise several times a week or more). 

  • While losing weight is the most commonly reported reason New Yorkers say they exercise (67 percent), they are more likely than adults nationally to say they exercise because it makes them happy (51 percent vs. 40 percent), it’s something they enjoy (51 percent vs. 39 percent) and something they are good at (23 percent vs. 15 percent).

Health in New York City

  • Many New Yorkers report that they have been told by their health care provider within the past five years to lose weight (34 percent), exercise more (31 percent) or eat a healthier diet (25 percent). 

  • On all aspects of well-being, New Yorkers report gaps between what they say is important and how successful they are at achieving those goals. However, the biggest gaps between how they rated the importance of these behaviors versus performance came in getting enough sleep (66 percent say it is extremely/very important while 32 percent think they are doing an excellent/very good job at doing so) and managing stress (68 percent vs. 36 percent). 

  • More than one in five (22 percent) reported lack of time prevents them from doing more to manage their stress. 

  • Eight of 10 New Yorkers (80 percent) report that they have experienced physical or emotional symptoms of stress over the past month. Less than half of New Yorkers report experiencing irritability or anger (45 percent) and nervousness or anxiousness (44 percent) and a third of New Yorkers report experiencing fatigue (38 percent) and headaches (33 percent) as a result of stress. 

  • Four in 10 New York City residents say they have eaten too much or eaten unhealthy foods or lain awake at night in the past month due to stress (44 percent for both responses).  

  • Forty-three percent of New Yorkers rate their health as excellent or good, however, one in four have been diagnosed with high cholesterol (28 percent), with high blood pressure (23 percent) and 20 percent have been diagnosed as obese within the past five years. 

  • More New Yorkers this year than last report being diagnosed with depression (17 percent compared with 11 percent). 

  • Of those who received a lifestyle or behavior change recommendation from their health care provider, one-fourth of New Yorkers reported that they didn’t have the willpower to make the lifestyle and behavior changes recommended (down from 30 percent in 2009), but the number who said it took too much effort to change rose substantially, from 11 percent to more than one in five residents (21 percent). In addition, those who said they lacked confidence in their ability to change also nearly doubled (from 9 percent to 17 percent).

Pace of Life in New York City

When asked whether the fast pace of New York City increases their stress levels, New Yorkers are split between considering the pace of city life in New York as a contributor to their daily stress. Thirty-seven percent agree or strongly agree that it does, while 32 percent disagree or strongly disagree with that statement.

*This section of the report focuses only on the views of residents within the New York MSA (2008 n=228; 2009 n=208; 2010 n=212) and the general population (2008 n=1,791; 2009 n=1,568; 2010 n=1,134).