Study: Most Stressful Cities in Washington

Read more about Stress Statistics

Behind all those images of coffee shops, grunge music, and Bill Gates wannabes, the residents who live in the state of Washington have their fair share of stress. They have outlets for relaxation — the Evergreen State earned its nickname from its seemingly endless greenery and national parks — but they can't always escape the noise and frustrations that add up. Read on to find the 10 most stressful cities in Washington.

Stress due to work, traffic, crime, money, and romantic relationships are common no matter where you go, but it’s harder to avoid in certain places over others. We’ve done the math to narrow down those areas of Washington that are more stressful than others.

Study Methodology

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

To find the 10 most stressful cities in Washington, we first studied crime statistics from the FBI to calculate the odds of being a victim of violent crime. Feeling at ease is a challenge when you’re worried about locking your doors or walking alone at night.

No matter how amazing your job is, even the best jobs can get stressful. That especially rings true when you’re working long hours and then sitting in traffic on your way home. Based on U.S. Census data, we calculated the average number of hours worked per week and the average time spent commuting to work each day.

Next we looked at the percentage of divorces in each city to get an idea of which cities experience a disproportionate amount of relationship problems. A failed marriage is the telltale sign of someone who has experienced extreme marital stress.

Tip: Read this article on money and relationship statistics.

Finally, we considered the amount of money people spend on housing in relation to their income. Housing is a basic necessity, but it’s hard to see nearly a third of your income disappear automatically at the end of the month. Higher housing costs means less money in your bank account, which is guaranteed to cause some stress.

10 Most Stressful Cities in Washington

10. Burien

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 129 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 25.3 minutes
  • Average work hours per week: 37.5
  • Percentage of divorcees: 10.5% of males, 16.2% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 26.9%

Just south of Seattle sits Burien, a city of less than 50,000 incorporated in 1993. Its violent crime rate isn’t great, but it’s not the worst on our list. Residents’ daily commute is also relatively decent, considering that it’s only 17 minutes from Washington’s largest city and residents only commute 25.3 minutes to get to work. What really makes life stressful for Burien residents is its high number of divorces, which indicates that love definitely isn’t easy in this city.

9. Federal Way

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 311 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 29.9 minutes
  • Average work hours per week: 37.7
  • Percentage of divorcees: 10.6% of males, 13.9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 25.9%

If you travel farther south down Interstate 5 from Burien, you’ll find Federal Way, a city with twice the population of Burien but half the violent crime rate. Residents also pay less of their income towards housing because of a higher median income. How did it rank higher than Burien to become the ninth most stressful city? It has a daily stress point to thank for the distinction: residents spend more time working and commuting to work, an average of 29.9 minutes each way. That’s five hours a week.

8. Auburn

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 291 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 29.3 minutes
  • Average work hours per week: 37.6
  • Percentage of divorcees: 11.5% of males, 15% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 25.7%

Auburn is right next door to Federal Way in the Green River Valley. As one of the earliest settlements in King County, Auburn takes pride in its farming and industrial past. Its reputation among locals is neither good nor bad — crime isn’t as big of a problem as other cities on our list, and housing costs are moderately low compared to the median household income. However, locals spend a lot of time in traffic and work an average 37.6 hours a week. Work isn’t the only thing that gives Auburn its stressful status – it also has a pretty high percentage of divorced women, suggesting a high level of broken homes and dreams.

7. Lake Stevens

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 611 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 31.9 minutes
  • Average work hours per week: 37.7
  • Percentage of divorcees: 11.1% of males, 15.3% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 27.7%

When it comes to choosing where to live, we often have to choose between affordable housing costs in less desirable locations or expensive housing costs in more desirable locations. Lake Stevens falls in the latter category. Located on the lake of the same name, it has the highest median income out of all the cities on our list and is the safest city, as the possibility of being a victim of violent crime is only 1 out of 611 residents. However, residents spend 27.7% of the $71,224 they make annually on housing, and also spend 31.9 minutes commuting to work each day. Lake Stevens is safe and picturesque, but residents pay for it with both their time and money.

Tip: Stressed out over the long (and expensive) 31.9 minute commute? Consider using a gas credit card to save money at the gas pump.

6. Renton

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 331 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 28.8 minutes
  • Average work hours per week: 38.6
  • Percentage of divorcees: 11.1% of males, 14.2% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 25.4%

In a city as sprawled out as Renton, you’re bound to get varying opinions of what it’s really like. It has its good parts and bad parts, and despite its close proximity to Seattle, some neighborhoods can seem pretty rural. The chances of being a victim of violent crime are only 1 in 331, which is relatively low. Rent is also quite low, as residents spend only 25.4% of their income on housing. What makes its residents’ stress level rise is traffic. They spend an average of 28.8 minutes commuting to work in the morning and 38.6 hours a week working.

5. Marysville

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 529 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 30.3 minutes
  • Average work hours per week: 38.4
  • Percentage of divorcees: 10.9% of males, 14.7% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 27.3%

Marysville’s population has grown a lot in the past decade, but development hasn’t caught up. It has a reputation for feeling rundown, but it does have a relatively low crime rate. The percentage of divorces is high, but commensurate with the area, with 10.9% of males divorced and 14.7% of females. Like its neighbor Lake Stevens, the daily commute is what makes living in “The Strawberry City” stressful. Residents commute 30.3 minutes to work each day.

4. Tacoma

Tacoma, Washington
Tacoma, Washington

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 126 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 25.4 minutes
  • Average work hours per week: 37.8
  • Percentage of divorcees: 12.7% of males, 16.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 27.1

One of the biggest metropolitan areas in Washington state, Tacoma breeds stressful city living. As a blue-collar port city, the median household income of $50,439 is lower than one would expect from a city so large. Residents spend quite a bit of their income on housing as well, demonstrating that housing doesn’t come cheap here. Although crime has decreased in recent years in Tacoma, it’s still the most dangerous city on our list. The combination of crime and expensive housing puts “City of Destiny” residents on edge.

3. Lakewood

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 128 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 24.4 minutes
  • Average work hours per week: 38.9
  • Percentage of divorcees: 14.4% of males, 17.9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 24.7%

With several lakes and its proximity to the Mount Rainer National Park, Lakewood has the potential to be a great tourist destination and a city with a relaxing atmosphere. Unfortunately, it falls short. It came in a close second as the most dangerous city on our list, with a violent crime rate of 1 in 128 residents. Also not helping it is the fact that 14.4% of men who live here are divorced, the highest percentage on our list.

2. Everett

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 219 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 25 minutes
  • Average work hours per week: 38.5
  • Percentage of divorcees: 13.1% of males, 19% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 27.2%

At first glance, Everett seems like the perfect small city. It has a beautiful marina, a historic district, numerous parks and gardens, and is home to the Boeing plant that employs more than a third of Everett’s population. However, the numbers show a different picture of this historic town. Everett residents work relatively long hours, earn $47,491 on average, and spend a high percentage of their income on housing. It also has the highest percentage of divorced females than any other city.

1. Bremerton

  • Odds of being a victim of violent crime: 1 in 172 inhabitants
  • Commute time: 24.7 minutes
  • Average work hours per week: 40.3
  • Percentage of divorcees: 12.3% of males, 17.9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 27.3%

It’s rare when a city dominates in nearly all categories, but Bremerton won hands down as the most stressful city in Washington. The median household income of Bremerton residents is only a meager $40,644, yet residents spend a whopping 27.3% of their income on housing. They also work on average 40.3 hours a week, which is more than any other city on our list.


Every city has its share of frustrations and worries. One person’s sense may feel like a breeze to someone else. But from a general viewpoint, the numbers above tell us these are the top 10 most stressed-out cities to live in Washington. Make sure you have a coping mechanism or a nearby outlet for relaxation if you go to any of them.

Cassy Perera is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews 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 decisions. (read more)

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