Study: Most Stressful Cities in California

Read more about Stress Statistics

Beyond the laidback California accent lies some stress in the Golden State. Crime, cost of living, work, and relationships are all real worries for Californians, and each city has a different story to tell. Read on to find the 10 most stressful cities to live in California.

Stereotypes of Californians abound, ranging from the over-caffeinated dot-commer to the laid-back surfer dude. Both can be found in California, of course, but life for California residents isn’t always about beaches and sunshine, nor is it just about startups and coffee.

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

To find the most stressful cities in California, we first calculated the odds of being a victim of violent crime based on crime statistics from the FBI. Everybody wants to be safe and secure in their city, and there’s nothing worse than feeling in physical danger walking around your neighborhood or enjoying a night out on the town.

Ask anybody about their main source of stress, and most will list their job as one of them. As much as people might love their jobs, they don’t want to spend all their time at the office. Using U.S. Census data, we looked at the average number of hours worked per week and the average amount of time spent commuting to work each day. Those minutes spent away from home add up. Residents who live in Palmdale spend an average of 40 minutes going to work every day. That’s more than 300 hours a year sitting in traffic, commuting between home and office.

Even more than the long hours in the car is the proven mark of someone who has dealt with serious stress. We looked at how many people are divorced in each city to pinpoint those people who have seen the stress of a problematic relationship come to a head.

Lastly, we looked at the percentage of people’s income that goes toward housing. Housing is one of the biggest expenses for Americans aside from food and transportation, and while it’s a basic necessity, everybody wants to have some extra money at the end of the month. We can assume that cities where people spend a higher percentage of their income on housing have to make some lifestyle adjustments to cover the expense.

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

10 Most Stressful Cities to Live in California

10. Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 208 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 29.2 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 37.9
  • Percentage of divorcees: 6.9% of males, 9.9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 32.5%

Los Angeles is notorious for its sprawling landscape, demanding entertainment industry, and ridiculous traffic. The only surprise here is that it isn’t #1 on our list. Although most residents agree that it can take between 15 minutes to an hour to get from point A to point B, “depending on traffic,” the average daily commute is 29.2 minutes. The divorce rate is also relatively low compared to other cities on our list. However, residents of Los Angeles spend an average of 32.5% of their income on rent – something to think about for those who don’t want to stress over a higher cost of living.

9. Carlsbad

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 407 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 28.6 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 39.1
  • Percentage of divorcees: 10.3% of males, 13.2% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 28.4%

For people who think that life in San Diego County is just about sun and relaxation, they should think again. Carlsbad, located in North San Diego County, is #9 on our list because of its high divorce rate and long working hours, both of which were highest on our list. While we can’t jump to conclusions and say that there’s a correlation, both are definitely a recipe for disaster. Its one saving grace is that the odds of being a victim of violent crime are only 1 in 407 inhabitants.

8. Vallejo

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 134 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 33 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 37.2
  • Percentage of divorcees: 9.3% of males, 12.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 27.9%

Vallejo has all the makings of a great city – close proximity to San Francisco, cheap real estate, and a successful theme park. Unfortunately, mismanagement of city funds caused the city to declare bankruptcy, and the city still hasn’t recovered. Long daily commutes and long working hours make this a city to skip living in if you’re looking for a low-stress city.

7. Richmond

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 92 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 31.4 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 36.9
  • Percentage of divorcees: 8.9% of males, 12.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 29.2%

If there were a contest to find the most dangerous city in California, Richmond would be one of the top contenders. The odds of being a victim of violent crime are 1 in 92 residents, the worst on our list. If that’s not enough to deter would-be residents, locals have been fighting against local refineries and factories because of harmful toxins in the environment. The combination of violent crime, a long daily commute, and expensive housing make for a stressful living environment.

6. Antioch

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 98 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 38.8 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 36.8
  • Percentage of divorcees: 7.8% of males, 10.6% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 30.7%

Antioch is a small town northeast of San Francisco. As a commuter town to the greater San Francisco Bay Area, it goes without saying that the average daily commute is bound to be long. Antioch also came in a close second to the most dangerous city on our list, as the odds of being a victim of a violent crime are 1 in 98 inhabitants. While real estate is cheaper in Antioch than the rest of the Bay Area, residents still spend 30.7% of their income on rent.

5. Palmdale

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 191 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 40.4 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 37.7
  • Percentage of divorcees: 6.9% of males, 10% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 33.5%

Palmdale has a deceptively laid-back name, but life in Palmdale is anything but. It’s one of the biggest cities in Los Angeles County and one of the fastest growing cities in the area. Separated from Los Angeles by the San Gabriel Mountains, residents spend an average of 40 minutes every day commuting to work, which amounts to over six hours per week on the road for the roundtrip commute. They also spend more of their income on rent than any other city on our list. Newcomers are likely to find themselves pressed for cash and time.

4. Victorville

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 176 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 34.6 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 37.5
  • Percentage of divorcees: 9.8% of males, 13.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 29%

Victorville sits on the edge of the Mojave Desert northeast of Los Angeles. As a small city, most residents commute to other cities for work and entertainment, which gives it a modest daily commute average of 34.6 minutes. However, any romantic notions one might have about living in a small desert town should be thrown out the window, because despite its low violent crime rate, Victorville has been known to have gang activity and property crimes. It also has the highest number of divorced women on our list. If you’re looking for a peaceful small town, Victorville is not it.

3. Inglewood

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 143 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 28.7 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 37.7
  • Percentage of divorcees: 9% of males, 12% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 32%

Inglewood’s reputation precedes itself. If rap lyrics are to be trusted, Inglewood is not a safe or peaceful place to live. Known for having a high level of gang activity and race riots in the 1990s, its crime rate has decreased considerably but is still higher than average. Crime isn’t the only thing that makes life in Inglewood stressful – a pretty large percentage of people are divorced and residents spend 32% of their income on housing.

2. Oceanside

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 235 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 27.6 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 38.9
  • Percentage of divorcees: 9.3% of males, 13.2% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 29.9%

Oceanside is another San Diego County city that defies the stereotype of a laidback surfer town. Residents may not have to worry about violent crime, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t experience other life stressors. The percentage of divorced people in this city is high, with 9.3% of men divorced and 13.2% of women. Residents also work long hours and spend 27.6 minutes commuting to their jobs. People planning to call this city home should be prepared to work hard and make their job a priority.

1. Lancaster

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 185 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 30.4 minutes
  • Average hours worked per week: 38.4
  • Percentage of divorcees: 8.4% of males, 11.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 29.9%

Of all the cities in California, Lancaster earned the top spot as the most stressful because of its combination of long work hours, high divorce rates, and long average commute time. Located north of Los Angeles and next door to Palmdale, Lancaster is hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and prone to desert winds. While housing costs seem to be on the lower end of the spectrum in Lancaster, it’s hardly worth it if you’re spending more time than other Californians at work every day. Life in this city can be stressful, and would-be residents looking for a relaxed lifestyle should look elsewhere.


Not all California cities are made equal, and every city has its share of pros and cons. For people wanting to live the “California dream,” hopefully our data has given you an idea of what cities aren’t conducive to a laidback lifestyle. Factors like crime, long daily commutes, long work hours, and high housing costs can all negatively affect one’s quality of life. No city is perfect, but people should always inform themselves and assess their own priorities.

The Top 20 Most Stressful Cities in California

RankCityViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute TimeAverage Hours Worked% Male Divorce1% Female Divorce1Income Spent on Housing
1Lancaster1 in 185.330.438.48.4%11.4%29.9%
2Oceanside1 in 235.127.638.99.3%13.2%29.9%
3Inglewood1 in 142.928.737.79.0%12.0%32%
4Victorville1 in 175.634.637.59.8%13.4%29%
5Palmdale1 in 191.240.437.76.9%10.0%33.5%
6Antioch1 in 98.338.836.87.8%10.6%30.7%
7Richmond1 in 91.531.436.98.9%12.5%29.2%
8Vallejo1 in 134.33337.29.3%12.5%27.9%
9Carlsbad1 in 407.128.639.110.3%13.2%28.4%
10Los Angeles1 in 207.929.237.96.9%9.9%32.5%
11San Francisco1 in 142.29.939.27.1%9.2%26.7%
12Oakland1 in 50.22837.39.0%11.8%29.1%
13Moreno Valley1 in 282.834.737.37.3%11.4%32.1%
14Fairfield1 in 235.927.238.97.5%11.4%29.3%
15San Bernardino1 in 106.326.936.89.3%11.9%31.4%
16Escondido1 in 234.72638.7.8%11.1%32.9%
17Fontana1 in 236.332.437.95.4%8.9%30.9%
18Modesto1 in 128.725.337.89.2%14.0%28.1%
19Stockton1 in 64.626.437.48.4%11.8%29.1%
20Rialto1 in 199.631.237.6.2%10.2%32%

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

Cassy Perera is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Write to Cassy Perera at cassy@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped consumers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

More from CreditDonkey:


Stress Statistics


Sleep Statistics

Infographic: Working Mom

Working Mothers Statistics



Leave a comment about Study: Most Stressful Cities in California?

Name
Email (won't be published)










About CreditDonkey®
CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy financial decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

†Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which CreditDonkey receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CreditDonkey does not include all companies or all offers that may be available in the marketplace.

*See the card issuer's online application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However, all information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button you can review the terms and conditions on the card issuer's website.

CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.