These Are The Most Stressful Cities For Commuters, Data Shows

The American Institute of Stress defines a stressful situation as one that most commonly causes “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.” For millions of Americans that likely sounds a lot like their daily commutes, especially among those who are being required to return to the office after an extended period working remotely.

According to the website, the most unruly commutes can adversely affect one’s mental health, with the longest daily to-and-from trips often disrupting one’s life/work balance and leading to burnout. Aside from the inconvenience and frustration suffered from sitting in one’s vehicle going no place fast, difficult commutes can trigger anxiety caused by what amounts to a loss of control, leading to feelings of powerlessness and frustration. Perhaps not surprisingly, a University of Montreal study showed that those subjected to the longest commutes have a more likely chance of experiencing chronic stress.

Increased congestion on the nation’s highways, which combined with lingering high gas prices, and rising auto insurance rates and ongoing operating costs are making Americans’ daily commutes more arduous than ever. But motorists in some parts of the nation – and in other countries – tend to fare more or less anxious behind the wheel than others.

Measuring Highway Stress Levels

According to a study of commutes in the 30 largest cities in North America, the U.K. and Europe conducted by the personal finance site, the most-horrific of the bunch in the U.S. can be found in the Los Angeles metro area, which the website regards as the second most stressful daily ride on the planet, second only to London.

Global metropolitan areas are ranked according to their applicable “Stress Scores,” which were determined by meticulously using monitors to track the heart rate (BPM) and heart rate variance (HRV) experienced by 300 drivers over a five-day period across the 30 largest cities in North America, the U.K. and Europe. For the uninitiated, the former is a measurement of how fast one’s heart is beating, which is generally lower when one is relaxed, while the latter measures the time between beats per minute, with lower levels indicating higher stress levels.

Drivers in London, which tops the chart, recorded a Stress Score of 92 out of a possible 100 points. Traffic congestion was found to raise the average Londoner’s resting heart rate by 25% (18 BPM), while also causing heart rate variance to dip by 33%.

Traffic was cited as being a major source of highway stress by 54% of respondents, followed by the questionable ability of other drivers at 52% and road layouts and conditions at 26%.

By contrast, Stockholm is least stressful major city for commuters with a score of just 12/100. This results from a nominal 3% increase in heart rates while driving and a slim 5% drop in HRV, both of which indicate low stress levels behind the wheel. We’re featuring lists of the most, and least onerous round trips both here and abroad below.

Coping Skills

How to best cope with the burgeoning burnout resulting from an especially grueling daily battle through traffic congestion? Assuming either taking public transportation or carpooling is not an option, the recruiting firm Robert Half offers these tips to help car-bound workers deal with the inevitable traffic tie-ups:


  • Leave 15 minutes earlier. Pushing one’s self out the door ahead of schedule can help lead to less-exhausting travel times.
  • Be strategic. Try alternate routes and traveling to and from work at different times of the day and plan around the combination that yields the least congestion, though this likely necessitates having a more-flexible work schedule than some employers may allow.
  • Keep a regular schedule. That said, some commuters find it difficult on their mental and physical well-being to maintain a variable schedule, in which case maintaining set wake-up and departure times can be less stressful in the long run.
  • Take control of the environment. Adjust the driver’s seat for maximum comfort and enjoy a relaxing (or stimulating) music genre, listen to podcasts or audio books or catch up with calls (hands-free, of course) to friends or family to more-pleasantly pass the time.
  • Pack snacks. Sitting in traffic is bad enough, but it can become that much more stressful if one is hungry. Keep protein bars and bottles of water in the car or a desk drawer for a boost before taking the long road home.


The Most Stressful Commutes In The U.S.

These are the U.S. cities in which drivers face the most nerve-wracking daily commutes, with their Stress Scores, based upon measured heart rates and heart rate variances of 300 drivers over a five-day period across the 30 largest cities in North America, the U.K. and Europe:


  1. Los Angeles: 84/100
  2. San Francisco: 78/100
  3. New York: 64/100
  4. Miami: 51/100
  5. Philadelphia: 48/100
  6. Boston: 40/100


The Worst Cities Outside The U.S. For Commuters

Think your daily commute is bad? These are the world capitals in which a daily trip to and from the office can be especially challenging:


  1. London, England: 92/100
  2. Paris, France: 84/100
  3. Cardiff, Wales: 67/100
  4. Rome, Italy: 55/100
  5. Glasgow, Scotland: 55/100
  6. Istanbul, Turkey: 54/100
  7. Bristol, England: 52/100


The Least-Stressful World Cities In Which To Drive To Work

Here’s where commuters have the easiest daily commutes with their minimal Stress Scores noted:

Stockholm. Sweden: 12/100

Berlin, Germany: 15/100

Toronto, Canada: 15/100

Montreal, Canada: 22/100

Sydney, Australia: 24/100

Brussels, Bekgium: 26/100

Leeds, England: 26/100

Edinburgh, Scotland: 28 /100

Manchester, England: 28 /100

Dublin, Ireland: 29 /100


For more information about stress-related issues visit The American Institute of Stress.

By for Forbes

Photo by Stan