Stress in New York City

New York CityNew Yorkers* are generally satisfied with their lives, in keeping with the rest of the nation, but they are more likely to report a drop in their stress levels than Americans on average.New Yorkers cite personal health, job stability and housing costs as sources of stress more often than those across the country.While satisfaction is high in New York, and stress appears to be on the decline for some, New Yorkers continue to struggle when it comes to making lifestyle and behavior changes, and they are challenged to succeed in areas that are important to them.

Perceptions of Stress

  • Two-thirds (67 percent) of New Yorkers report being satisfied with life in general, comparable to the national number of 66 percent.

  • Though they report similar stress levels as other Americans (5.3 compared to 5.2 nationally on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is little or no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress), New Yorkers (24 percent) are more likely than Americans overall (17 percent) to say their stress has decreased in the past year.

  • Clearly, some are doing better than others: 32 percent of New Yorkers said their stress had gone up since 2010.

  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of New Yorkers say personal health concerns are a cause of stress for them, significantly more than the 53 percent who say the same nationally. This is similar to the 63 percent of New Yorkers who cited personal health last year, but a large uptick from 2009 when just 49 percent said the same.

  • Six in 10 (60 percent) New Yorkers cite job stability as a stressor, well above the 49 percent national average.

  • Two-thirds (66 percent) of New Yorkers say that housing costs are a cause of stress, which is higher than the 49 percent who say the same nationally.

  • New Yorkers are also more likely than Americans in general to cite personal safety as a cause of stress (44 percent vs. 32 percent nationally).

Stress and Well-Being

Nearly all New Yorkers recognize the link between stress and health, which may be related to the priority status New Yorkers give to managing stress and staying physically active.

  • Nearly nine in 10 (87 percent) New Yorkers say that stress has at least a strong impact on personal health. More New Yorkers than those nationally think stress has an impact on their mental health (42 percent vs. 35 percent).

  • Two-thirds (67 percent) of New Yorkers say that managing stress is important, roughly the same as last year (68 percent) and more than the 61 percent nationally who say the same.

However, New Yorkers, like the rest of the country, have a difficult time meeting their goals for keeping stress under control.

  • Two in 5 (40 percent) New Yorkers report doing a very good or excellent job at managing their stress, compared with 35 percent nationally.

They also struggle when it comes to making lifestyle changes, though the data suggest they are doing better than Americans overall.

  • A substantially larger number of New Yorkers say being physically active is important (65 percent vs. 54 percent nationally).

  • Among those who decided to or were recommended to make a change, more New Yorkers report success at eating a healthier diet (52 percent vs. 44 percent nationally), exercising more (46 percent vs. 39 percent nationally) and losing weight (39 percent vs. 30 percent nationally).

  • Despite their success, New Yorkers report a lack of willpower (32 percent vs. 27 percent nationally) and say that making lifestyle and behavior changes requires too much effort (17 percent vs. 13 percent nationally). The willpower problem appears to have grown since last year, when only 25 percent of New Yorkers cited it as a barrier.

In addition to feeling less stressed, New Yorkers also report feeling less irritable due to stress than the rest of the nation. Overall, they are less likely to report having experienced a number of negative physical symptoms due to stress than those nationally, and fewer report some common stress-related symptoms as compared to last year.

  • Nearly one-third (31 percent) of New Yorkers report irritability or anger in the past month due to stress, lower than the 42 percent nationally who say the same; 23 percent report headaches, compared to 32 percent nationally; and 15 percent report indigestion, well below 24 percent nationally.

  • The 31 percent who report irritability/anger is much lower than the 45 percent of New Yorkers who reported the same in 2010, and the 23 percent who report headaches is a drop from 33 percent who said the same last year.

Managing Stress

A majority of New Yorkers continue to feel positively about doing enough to manage stress. For managing stress, New Yorkers are more likely than Americans overall to turn to music or a mental health professional and less likely to turn to more spiritual measures.

  • More than half (55 percent) of New Yorkers say they are doing enough to manage stress, virtually unchanged from 56 percent last year and 55 percent in 2009.

  • Just over three in five (61 percent) New Yorkers listen to music to help manage their stress, compared to 48 percent of those nationwide.

  • Also, 9 percent of New Yorkers report seeing a mental health professional to help manage stress, more than the 3 percent who say the same nationally.

  • Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of New Yorkers use prayer to manage stress, less than the 32 percent who say the same nationally, and 11 percent report attending church/religiousservices to manage stress, less than the 21 percent who report the same nationally.

  • Three in five (61 percent) New Yorkers say that they focus on the positive to deal with stress, which is more than the 50 percent nationally who report doing the same.

  • For those who say they express feelings instead of bottling them up, 68 percent of New Yorkers find this strategy effective, more than the 51 percent nationally who find this effective.

  • New Yorkers are more likely than those nationwide to believe a psychologist is able to help a great deal or a lot: 62 percent of New Yorkers believe that a psychologist is helpful in coping with mental health issues (vs. 52 percent nationally), 55 percent with relationship issues (vs. 42 percent nationally), 39 percent with chronic illness (vs. 29 percent nationally), 35 percent with work/life balance (vs. 25 percent nationally) and 21 percent with career planning (vs. 13 percent nationally).

Barriers to Change

New Yorkers report that willpower is a leading barrier to making the lifestyle changes that may be necessary to reduce their stress. They are also more likely than Americans nationwide to say lifestyle or behavior change require too much effort.

  • Adults in New York (32 percent) are more likely than those nationally (27 percent) to say that willpower prevents them from making the lifestyle changes that they decided to make or have been recommended to improve their health.

  • New York residents also point to a lack of time (24 percent) and requiring too much needed effort (17 percent) as barriers to change.

  • The number of New Yorkers (24 percent) who cited a lack of time as a leading barrier to change rose 9 points over 2010 (15 percent).


* This section of the report focuses only on the views of residents within the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area (2008 n= 228; 2009 n=208; 2010 n=212; 2011 n=243) and the general population (2008 n=1,791; 2009 n=1,568; 2010 n=1,134; 2011 n=1,226).