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U.S. Cities With the Most Stressful Jobs in 2022

While the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated stressful work conditions for frontline and essential workers, workers in a wide range of other occupations must also contend with stress at work on a regular basis. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), nearly 8% of U.S. workers are employed in occupations requiring the highest degrees of stress tolerance.

Stress on the job can be caused by high risks, demanding customers, and tight deadlines among other factors. O*NET ranks occupations on a scale of 0 to 100 based on how much a job “requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.” With a score of 100, urologists are thought to face some of the most stressful work conditions. Many of the other higher scoring jobs, such as nurse anesthetists and physician assistants, are in the health care field as well.

While many high-stress occupations command high wages—such as those in health care, business, and law—not all do. For example, telephone operators, public safety telecommunicators, and retail sales managers are all among the most high-stress occupations, but their wages are at or slightly below the national median.

Chart1_Some high-stress jobs pay well, but not all

RELATED

Many of the nation’s most stressful jobs are in fields with significant liability exposure. It’s especially important in these industries to have the correct business insurance policies, including but not limited to professional liability insurance.


Chronic stress, whether from one’s work or personal life, has been shown to cause a range of physical effects. Long-term chronic stress can cause or contribute to the risk factors for heart disease, metabolic disorders (e.g. obesity and diabetes), and depression among other problems. Workers in stressful jobs are more at risk for these harmful conditions, but there are strategies—including exercise, getting adequate sleep, and having a strong social support network—for managing stress.

The share of workers in high-stress occupations—defined as occupations with O*NET stress scores of 90 and above—varies on a geographic basis based on local economic factors. Workers in the South and on the East Coast tend to be more concentrated in stressful occupations than workers on the West Coast. At the state level, West Virginia and Mississippi have the highest share of workers in the most high-stress occupations, with 9.4% and 9.0% of workers in these jobs respectively. With just 6.4% of workers in high-stress occupations, Utah workers are the least likely to work in stressful jobs.

Chart2_WV & MS have the highest share of workers in high-stress jobs

FOR BUSINESS OWNERS

If your business employees workers in high-stress jobs, offering a generous benefits package can help relieve some of that stress. In addition to health insurance, consider adding a life insurance policy, paid time off, and a retirement plan.


To determine the U.S. metropolitan areas with the most stressful jobs, researchers at Smartest Dollar analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*NET. The researchers ranked metros according to the percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations. Researchers also calculated the total number of workers in the most high-stress occupations, the median annual wage across all workers, and the median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations. To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis.

Here are the metros with the most stressful jobs.

Chart3_Small & midsize metros with the most stressful jobs

Large Metros With the Most Stressful Jobs

St. Louis, MO

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15. St. Louis, MO-IL

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 7.6%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 98,270
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $42,060
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $63,085
Miami, FL

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14. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 7.6%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 190,340
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $38,690
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $65,902
Kansas City, MO

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13. Kansas City, MO-KS

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 7.7%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 79,790
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $43,200
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $62,882
New York, NY

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12. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 7.7%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 684,020
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $52,020
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $84,360
Baltimore, MD

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11. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 7.9%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 102,340
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $48,470
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $71,688
Buffalo, NY

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10. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 8.1%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 40,310
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $42,040
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $71,477
Providence, RI

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9. Providence-Warwick, RI-MA

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 8.1%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 42,940
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $46,000
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $74,967
Tucson, AZ

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8. Tucson, AZ

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 8.2%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 30,130
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $38,900
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $58,521
Philadelphia, PA

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7. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 8.2%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 220,690
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $46,500
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $72,606
Rochester, NY

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6. Rochester, NY

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 8.3%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 39,630
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $42,430
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $66,228
Oklahoma City, OK

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5. Oklahoma City, OK

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 8.4%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 51,330
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $39,080
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $60,689
Pittsburgh, PA

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4. Pittsburgh, PA

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 8.4%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 90,130
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $43,200
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $66,731
New Orleans, LA

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3. New Orleans-Metairie, LA

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 8.5%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 43,700
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $38,280
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $60,015
Cleveland, OH

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2. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 8.5%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 83,650
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $42,740
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $68,794
Birmingham, AL

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1. Birmingham-Hoover, AL

  • Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 9.8%
  • Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 48,770
  • Median annual wage across all workers: $39,530
  • Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $56,895

Detailed Findings & Methodology

To determine the U.S. metropolitan areas with the most stressful jobs, researchers at Smartest Dollar analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’s 2020 Occupational Employment Survey and O*NET’s Occupational Stress Tolerance data. The researchers ranked metros according to the percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations, defined as the share of workers in jobs with O*NET stress scores of 90 and above. In the event of a tie, the metro with the larger total number of workers in the most high-stress occupations was ranked higher. Researchers also calculated the median annual wage across all workers and the median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size: 

  • Small metros: 100,000-350,000
  • Midsize metros: 350,000-1,000,000
  • Large metros: more than 1,000,000