Study: Most Stressful Communities in California


California has the reputation of being one of the most laid-back states around, but residents from San Francisco to Chowchilla know that stress can be found anywhere. Bustling cities, touristy beach towns, and roadside truck stops have more in common than one might think. For people hoping to live a slower pace of life, they may be disappointed to hear that smaller communities can be just as stressful as their bigger counterparts.

CreditDonkey set out to find out which cities in California with populations of less than 100,000 are the most stressful. In metropolitan cities with a large population, stress is a given because of the high cost of living, daily traffic, and long work shifts. Unfortunately, not even small cities are immune to the same stressful problems. Read on to find out if your community made the list.

10 Most Stressful Communities in California

Study Methodology

  1. Odds of being a victim of violent crime
  2. Commute time
  3. Average hours worked per week
  4. Percentage of divorcees
  5. Percentage of income spent on housing

We first looked at crime statistics from the FBI to calculate the odds of becoming a victim of violent crime. It’s difficult to relax if you have to keep looking over your shoulder in your own neighborhood. A lower crime rate means that residents have one less thing to worry about as they go about their daily routine.

Putting in long hours at work may be fulfilling for some, but everybody needs a break sometimes. The hours spent in traffic and at work can take away precious time from one’s personal life and leaves little time for rest and relaxation. We used U.S. Census data to calculate how much time locals spend at work and sit in traffic to see which communities are working and commuting long hours each day.

When relationships are good, they’re a source of love and support, but when they go bad, they can cause a great deal of emotional distress. We calculated the percentage of divorcees in each city to get an idea of which communities have a higher incidence of marital problems.

Finally, we looked at the percentage of their monthly income that locals spend towards housing each month. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does give financial security and peace of mind. The higher the percentage one spends on housing, the more one has to cut other expenses to make ends meet.

With these five factors in mind, we compiled this list of the 10 most stressful communities in California.

10. Hollister

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 221 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 29.1 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 38
  • Percentage of divorcees: 7.8% of males, 12.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 32.7%

Hollister is a small agricultural city in San Benito County halfway between Monterey and the San Francisco Bay Area. In many ways, Hollister is a typical farming community. It has a low crime rate, a small town ambience, one-lane roads, and parts of the surrounding area seem undeveloped. But for those trying to escape the daily stress of bigger cities, they may still find life in Hollister stressful. The main industry is agriculture, and perhaps because of the lay of the land, residents commute an average of 29.1 minutes to get to work - a long time to travel when you live in a city that’s only 7.29 square miles. The high cost of housing in comparison to the median annual income also probably puts pressure on locals’ finances at the end of the month, which is why Hollister ranked #10 on our list.

Did you know: The city of Hollister is bisected in half by the Calaveras Fault. Many houses are built on top of the fault line and are visibly offset because of aseismic creep. Although residents of these houses have reinforced the foundations, they probably still hope that another big earthquake doesn’t strike soon.

9. Laguna Beach

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 409 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 28.3 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 40
  • Percentage of divorcees: 15.9% of males, 19.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 28%

Laguna Beach is a Southern California resort city made famous by the MTV reality show Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. For those familiar with the area, it may come as a surprise that life in Laguna Beach is anything but relaxing. It has picturesque beaches, a thriving artistic community, a strong surf culture, and an annual median income of $95,020. However, residents work hard for their money, as shown by the forty hours they work weekly. Laguna Beach has the highest median income than any other city on our list, but it also dominates in another category - the percentage of divorcees. 15.9% of males and 19.5% of females are divorced in Laguna Beach. It goes to show that not even money nor beautiful scenery can erase the stress that results from a failed marriage.

Did you know: The Western movie legend, John Wayne, owned a beach house in Laguna Beach that has a relaxing view of the Thousand Steps Beach.

8. Patterson

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 392 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 42 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 39.2
  • Percentage of divorcees: 7.1% of males, 10.2% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 32.7%

Patterson is a rural city in Stanislaus County that has current bragging rights as the “Apricot Capital of the World.” Its economy depends heavily on agriculture, and it’s said that Patterson yields 95,000 tons of apricots each year. Patterson has a fairly low crime rate and low percentage of divorcees, but other factors can make daily life in this city stressful. The cost of housing in relation to locals’ income is quite high, and our data shows that residents work almost forty hours per week. Patterson residents also suffer through the longest daily commute on our list; 42 minutes is a long commute for a metropolitan city, but in a small city like Patterson, it’s probably even more taxing.

Did you know: The Zodiac killer terrorized Northern Californians in the 1960s and 1970s. Five murders were confirmed to be committed by him, but police believe that he killed many more. On March 22, 1970, he attempted to kidnap Kathleen Johns on Highway 132 near Patterson, but she managed to escape.

7. Avenal

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 296 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 29.2 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 42.1
  • Percentage of divorcees: 11.4% of males, 5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 30.5%

If you’ve ever taken the long drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles on the I-5, you probably passed by Avenal, a small city just southeast of Coalinga. At various points in history it was known for its oat and oil fields. Currently, its major industries are agriculture and the Avenal State Prison, whose prisoners account for one-third of Avenal’s population. Avenal is relatively safe and residents pay an average percentage of their income on housing. It also has the lowest number of divorced women on our list. However, Avenal probably has a high incidence of work-related stress. Our research shows that residents work on average 42.1 hours a week. Avenal may not have many job opportunities, but residents definitely work harder and longer than residents of other cities on our list.

Did you know: Most people would be nervous to have a prison in their community, but Avenal was the first city to petition for a prison in order to improve the city’s economic status. The prison currently employs around 1,000 residents of Avenal.

6. Hemet

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 200 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 30.3 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 37
  • Percentage of divorcees: 14.2% of males, 16% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 31.5%

Hemet is a city southeast of Los Angeles in Riverside County. The town was formed around the creation of the Great Hemet Dam, which was a source of water for the San Jacinto Valley. In the 1960s, it became the site of one of the first mobile home parks that sold individual lots, and being ideal for retirees, quickly became known as a retirement community. Hemet is relatively safe and residents work only 37 hours per week on average, which is short in comparison to other cities. Residents spend a slightly higher than average percentage of their monthly income on housing, but not enough for it to be the main cause of stress in Hemet. The high percentage of male and female divorcees indicates that Hemet residents experience a high amount of tension in their romantic relationships.

Did you know: Humor is sometimes the best relief from stress. The actor and comedian Bill Murray owned a house in Hemet with his ex-wife Jennifer Butler.

5. Adelanto

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 163 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 40.4 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 38.2
  • Percentage of divorcees: 7.7% of males, 6.2% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 33.9%

The history of Adelanto is unique in that its founding was not based on the organic development of a community over time, but because of the efforts of one man. E.H. Richardson, the creator of the Hotpoint Electric Iron, sold his patent and bought a plot of land with the intention of forming a planned community. Adelanto, located in San Bernardino County, is the result. Adelanto is moderately safe and has a low percentage of divorcees, indicating that crime and romance are low on residents’ list of worries. Unfortunately, residents commute 40.4 minutes to get to work and spend 33.9% of their income on housing. If traffic and a high cost of living aren’t stressful enough, the city declared a fiscal emergency in 2013 and may be on the verge of bankruptcy.

Did you know: Adelanto residents can relieve stress by visiting the El Mirage Lake, a dry lakebed in the Mojave Desert used as an off-highway vehicle recreation area. Some areas have designated speed limits because of campsites, but in other areas, the sky’s the limit.

4. Chowchilla

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 167 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 29 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 38
  • Percentage of divorcees: 11.6% of males, 16.7% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 30%

Chowchilla is an agricultural community located in the San Joaquin Valley,within 90 minutes to Yosemite National Park. Its unique name is derived from the Chaushila tribe, who inhabited the area prior to its development. Our data shows that Chowchilla is pretty average in comparison to other cities on our list. The crime rate is moderately low, residents’ daily commute is less than thirty minutes one-way, and residents only work 38 hours a week. However, the percentage of divorcees tells a different story. The numbers indicate that Chowchilla residents experience a high amount of marital stress in comparison to other cities, which serves as a warning sign to those hoping to find their happily-ever-after in Chowchilla.

Did you know: Investing in land is a risky and stressful business, as the founder of Chowchilla, Orlando Alison Robertson, learned the hard way. When he first started his Chowchilla venture, he was worth around $4 million. After dumping all his money into various developments, the Great Depression hit, and he died nearly penniless.

3. West Hollywood

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 104 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 26.5 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 41.1
  • Percentage of divorcees: 7.8% of males, 14.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 32.1%

West Hollywood is located in Los Angeles County and despite being home to famous landmarks like the Sunset Strip, Melrose Avenue, and Santa Monica Boulevard, it was only incorporated as a city in 1984. When visitors go star sighting in Los Angeles, West Hollywood venues like the Standard or the Whisky Bar are where they can spot their favorite celebrity. West Hollywood is a small city compared to Los Angeles, but it is densely populated and has a number of big city problems. The violent crime rate is high in comparison to other cities on our list, and the high percentage of female divorcees paints a picture of a city that may be jaded or stressed when it comes to love. Residents also work long hours and pay a high percentage of their income on housing, the price they have to pay for living in a highly coveted area.

Did you know: West Hollywood may be stressful for humans, but it’s a pet paradise. West Hollywood has many hotels, restaurants, and stores that are pet-friendly. The Club Beverly Hills even has amenities like doggie workouts, gourmet meals, and a Jacuzzi soak.

2. Desert Hot Springs

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 81 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 33 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 37.5
  • Percentage of divorcees: 12.9% of males, 13.9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 34.6%

Desert Hot Springs is a spa and resort city in the Coachella Valley that sits atop two mineral aquifers. On one side of the San Andreas Fault, the hot mineral water supplies water to spas and resorts, and on the other side, cold water provides drinking water to local residents. The city may be known for the rest and relaxation it provides, but our data shows that residents’ experience in Desert Hot Springs differs greatly from that of the typical tourist. The chance of becoming a victim of violent crime is 1 in 81 inhabitants, which is very high for such a small city. Residents spend a long time commuting to work each morning, and at the end of the month, spend the highest percentage of their income on housing than any other city on our list. There is also a high percentage of divorcees in Desert Hot Springs. Traffic, money woes, and relationship problems probably keep Desert Hot Springs residents on edge.

Did you know: Residents may worry about housing costs and traffic, but one thing they don’t need to worry about is their tap water. Desert Hot Springs’ groundwater has won numerous awards, including the “Best Tasting Municipal Drinking Water” at the International Water Tasting Competition.

1. Emeryville

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 59 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 27.2 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 41
  • Percentage of divorcees: 11.8% of males, 14.8% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 30.4%

Situated right next to Oakland and across the bay from San Francisco, it goes without saying that Emeryville would be a high-stress community. Although it’s a small city that’s just over one square mile, it still suffers from big-city problems that affect its neighbors. Oakland is no stranger to crime, and some of it probably trickles into Emeryville and contributes to its high crime rate of 1 in 59 inhabitants, the highest crime rate on our list. While Emeryville residents don’t have to endure a very long daily commute, they still put in long hours at the office and work harder than residents of other cities on our list. The high number of female divorcees indicates that love doesn’t always come easy to Emeryville residents. Crime, work, and dysfunctional relationships earned it its place as the #1 most stressful community in California.

Did you know: Working for Pixar Animation Studios must be difficult, but it’s even more stressful when you’re a newbie in the industry. Because most traditional animators are based in Los Angeles and Pixar’s headquarters are in Emeryville, many of Pixar’s first films featured animators who were fresh out of college.


California may be a popular destination for fun and relaxation, but many residents are living a different reality. Like anywhere else, Californians from big cities and small communities alike experience their fair share of stress. No matter where you live, traffic, divorce, and a high cost of living can significantly affect your quality of life. No city is perfect, but at the very least you can be informed and live in a community that suits your lifestyle best.


The Top 100 Most Stressful Communities in California

RankCityViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute TimeAverage Hours Worked% Male Divorce1% Female Divorce1Income Spent on Housing
1Emeryville1 in 58.927.241.011.8%14.8%30.4%
2Desert Hot Springs1 in 81.23337.512.9%13.9%34.6%
3West Hollywood1 in 103.526.541.17.8%14.4%32.1%
4Chowchilla1 in 167.12938.011.6%16.7%30%
5Adelanto1 in 163.440.438.27.7%6.2%33.9%
6Hemet1 in 200.030.337.014.2%16.0%31.5%
7Avenal1 in 296.329.242.111.4%5.0%30.5%
8Patterson1 in 391.94239.27.1%10.2%32.7%
9Laguna Beach1 in 408.528.340.015.9%19.5%28%
10Hollister1 in 220.829.138.07.8%12.4%32.7%
11Hesperia1 in 229.837.837.59.3%11.7%31.2%
12San Jacinto1 in 333.137.938.19.1%11.7%30.9%
13Sonoma1 in 401.528.638.712.9%23.1%28.8%
14Port Hueneme1 in 340.62538.511.0%16.8%34.5%
15Mendota1 in 212.629.241.82.7%4.1%32.2%
16Menifee1 in 920.138.638.212.1%13.5%31.3%
17Vista1 in 206.624.738.58.2%14.0%33.1%
18Capitola1 in 214.628.336.111.2%18.5%34.3%
19Santa Monica1 in 230.925.740.69.4%15.6%27.6%
20San Clemente1 in 867.93039.88.3%13.7%30.9%
21Brentwood1 in 533.440.138.58.7%11.3%31.3%
22Clearlake1 in 90.125.834.413.1%17.3%33.8%
23Lake Elsinore1 in 414.74338.18.0%10.2%32.6%
24Santa Fe Springs1 in 166.628.737.87.3%16.5%29.2%
25Beaumont1 in 369.63038.76.4%13.2%30.8%
26Lemon Grove1 in 189.325.537.69.9%13.3%32.4%
27Hawthorne1 in 134.527.638.18.8%10.7%29.3%
28Dana Point1 in 525.727.139.511.5%15.7%28.6%
29Compton1 in 80.527.437.75.3%9.4%35.5%
30Arvin1 in 119.823.939.95.2%7.8%32.1%
31Manteca1 in 260.03238.08.4%11.6%28.2%
32Galt1 in 409.528.638.08.3%14.2%31%
33Norco1 in 497.334.537.411.7%12.4%29.9%
34Perris1 in 294.236.937.55.6%9.9%35.5%
35Chino1 in 274.231.737.78.1%10.1%29.9%
36Culver City1 in 220.824.639.78.9%13.9%27.1%
37Canyon Lake1 in 991.441.739.14.9%9.1%32.8%
38Soledad1 in 328.22539.915.6%6.8%29.5%
39San Marcos1 in 378.025.538.86.3%12.1%35.5%
40Hercules1 in 574.037.439.17.5%9.8%28.5%
41Pittsburg1 in 426.935.137.18.2%12.1%31.8%
42La Quinta1 in 257.923.338.49.2%13.6%29.6%
43Suisun City1 in 501.631.838.18.9%11.6%29.1%
44Hermosa Beach1 in 367.229.341.911.6%10.8%24.1%
45Marysville1 in 139.32236.215.9%17.0%31.4%
46Beverly Hills1 in 389.625.939.87.0%10.9%30.4%
47South Gate1 in 173.529.137.63.8%6.7%33.5%
48National City1 in 161.524.638.26.4%9.8%31.8%
49San Pablo1 in 107.930.236.06.4%9.7%31.1%
50Calabasas1 in 1,803.230.939.37.1%11.0%30.5%
51Rohnert Park1 in 217.327.336.09.2%15.1%30.2%
52Redondo Beach1 in 357.127.340.310.3%14.3%24.1%
53Delano1 in 198.222.540.37.3%7.4%29.9%
54Palm Springs1 in 152.320.937.816.1%17.7%27.8%
55Lompoc1 in 194.226.837.511.8%11.8%28.1%
56Placerville1 in 190.525.436.911.6%19.1%28.3%
57Imperial Beach1 in 183.424.737.38.4%14.8%29.8%
58Los Banos1 in 259.842.737.85.5%7.5%29.1%
59Signal Hill1 in 260.424.538.69.6%13.0%27.8%
60Eastvale1 in 1,352.240.639.73.2%8.0%31.3%
61Livermore1 in 275.128.738.49.9%12.1%25.7%
62Cudahy1 in 160.331.936.82.4%3.6%34.3%
63Lawndale1 in 199.525.537.18.4%10.2%34%
64Lomita1 in 216.725.938.88.8%15.2%24.8%
65Petaluma1 in 353.329.937.78.2%16.0%27.3%
66Montebello1 in 435.232.838.37.6%9.3%28.5%
67Monterey1 in 186.315.240.810.3%14.8%26.1%
68Ceres1 in 252.327.537.67.9%11.7%29.5%
69Red Bluff1 in 127.121.636.315.0%18.7%29.4%
70Huntington Park1 in 158.430.136.94.1%5.7%32.4%
71San Dimas1 in 665.232.138.38.5%13.2%27%
72Wildomar1 in 626.936.536.69.2%11.8%31.6%
73Malibu1 in 856.931.739.07.9%10.1%28.2%
74Tracy1 in 586.540.338.07.0%9.5%29.6%
75Pleasant Hill1 in 465.828.637.610.2%14.2%28.4%
76Montclair1 in 190.63037.16.3%10.4%29.3%
77Greenfield1 in 139.725.740.13.5%2.4%28%
78American Canyon1 in 310.532.537.55.3%12.3%29%
79La Mesa1 in 260.923.237.712.4%17.1%28.1%
80Oakdale1 in 362.625.839.29.6%13.3%26.1%
81Rancho Cordova1 in 168.524.838.09.3%14.6%26.2%
82Stanton1 in 376.227.937.67.1%12.0%31.3%
83Corcoran1 in 282.218.838.915.7%7.5%30.6%
84Lynwood1 in 131.127.537.14.3%6.7%33.7%
85Atwater1 in 160.521.938.011.3%12.9%27.5%
86Santee1 in 355.223.938.411.6%15.6%27.4%
87Anderson1 in 115.616.437.010.6%17.9%29.5%
88Bellflower1 in 256.227.937.17.7%11.7%29.9%
89California City1 in 160.732.537.98.3%9.6%23.8%
90Duarte1 in 305.328.137.87.5%12.3%28.3%
91Laguna Woods1 in 4,147.522.938.117.4%23.1%31.7%
92Maywood1 in 159.128.536.94.0%4.4%34.3%
93Benicia1 in 742.129.539.09.9%15.1%23.9%
94McFarland1 in 228.224.841.35.7%4.2%28.1%
95Apple Valley1 in 320.52936.610.8%12.4%28.7%
96Coalinga1 in 72.717.441.111.7%9.4%24.2%
97Lodi1 in 227.623.337.79.1%12.9%28.6%
98Tehachapi1 in 250.320.738.615.1%9.2%28.7%
99West Sacramento1 in 260.522.737.79.6%14.7%28.9%
100Buena Park1 in 400.528.638.08.0%10.0%28.7%

1Treated as one combined metric for ranking purposes (at a 50:50 male to female ratio).

Cassy Parker is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Cassy Parker at cassy@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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