Feeling stressed? Places to visit,
cities to avoid

TORONTO – How is your level of stress lately? If you are looking to break away from the worry and anxiety of life’s troubles, perhaps a move to one of the least stressful cities in the world is in order.

If so, then head for Reykjavik, Iceland, considered the most stress-free city in the world, according to the 2021 Least and Most Stressful Cities Index released by VAAY, a Berlin-based company specializing in (cannabidiol) health products for inner balance and mindfulness. The Nordic city is among the best for clean air, gender equality, a great place to enjoy good health and live stress-free.

The study involved a ranking system based on several factors including, equity, financial status, health, population density, safety, social/political stability and the weather among others. Each category was evaluated separately and the final score was determined by calculating the average across all indicators. The higher the score indicates a lower stress environment for the cities’ inhabitants.

From one hundred cities around the world, selected for comparability, three Canadian metropolises emerged among the top thirty: Montreal (#12), Vancouver (#29) and Toronto (#30).

Typically, money troubles account for one of the biggest stressors in peoples lives. But other social, environmental and economic conditions contribute to a person’s overall stress level and often get overlooked.

For instance, population density, traffic congestion and unemployment all contribute to the stress level experienced by city dwellers. Even elements such as air pollution have an effect on the physical and mental health of people. Such is the case in Vancouver, it has the best air quality compared to the other two Canadian cities (see graph 1, below).

As for Toronto, despite its road construction, transit delays and high population density, it still outranks cities in other Western countries, like Rome (#42) and Paris (#62). Among European cities, the data further suggests that Torontonians experienced a lower prevalence of mental health disorders and had better access to healthcare.

In a world still living through a global pandemic, the study took into account each government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. All three Canadian cities fared well in this category with respect to investments in healthcare and supports for the local economy. Overall, Canada’s three major cities experienced a lower stress impact, considering all else.

According to organizers of the study, the aim was to “show which cities are leading the way in improving the wellbeing of their citizens” while, at the same time, providing “a source of inspiration to those cities lagging behind.”

On the flip side, topping the list of the world’s most stressful cities was Mumbai, India, followed by Lagos in Nigeria. Manila, Philippines, rounded out the top three most stressful cities in the world (see graph 2, at the top).

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