Whit’s End: Colorado is one of the least-stressed states, and I’m not surprised
“From #1 to #43. Good move.”
My friend Apryl Marie wrote earlier this week to share a report from Wallet Hub, a personal finance site that frequently ranks states based on different factors. I received dozens of press releases from the company when I lived in Alabama; my native state is often ranked the worst in the site’s listings. This report was no different.
Wallet Hub evaluated the stress level of the country’s 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 33 factors, which it divided into four broader categories: work-, money-, family- and health-/safety-related stress. As Apryl Marie noted, Alabama ended up the most-stressed state on the list. Colorado came in No. 43.
A good move indeed.
Let me be clear: I love Alabama. I think you should visit, and I’d love to help you play your trip. Heck, I recruited Apryl Marie to Alabama from D.C. (No. 18 on this stress list) when she started her family. Birmingham, my hometown, is an easy place to live. The cost of living is low, and the opportunity to make your own way is great. The city’s food scene is nationally renowned and home to several James Beard award-winning chefs.
Alabama as a whole is a lovely place, with white-sand beaches on one end and the foothills of the Appalachians on the other. The state is home to some of the best college football in the nation, with 18 national titles between its two Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Of course, watching the Tide lose the 2016 title to Clemson was stressful.
I’m a staunch defender of my homeland. Since moving to Colorado, I’ve made a point of sharing a positive fact about Alabama whenever something embarrassing arises in the news. (Did you know Huntsville once claimed the country’s most doctorates per capita? Or that Birmingham founded Veterans Day?)
Even so, I recognize the state’s flaws. That’s why I wasn’t surprised by this discrepancy between my birthplace and my new home.
Alabama tied for second for lowest credit score. It shared that ranking with Georgia, and only Mississippi was worse off. (The unofficial Alabama state motto comes to mind: Thank God for Mississippi!) Alabama tied, this time with Louisiana and Oklahoma, for fourth when it comes to the percentage of adults in fair or poor health.
Alabamians are known for their obesity and sedentary lifestyles (and all that good Southern cooking doesn’t help). The state has the second-fewest psychologists per capita, an unsurprising figure given the state’s largest private mental health care provider, Alabama Psychiatric Services, closed in 2015. It also ranked fourth for the average hours of sleep its residents get per night.
Coloradans, on the other hand, sleep more than everyone except folks in South Dakota. I’m not surprised. I’ve always been a champion sleeper, pulling nine hours a night several days a week. But I fall asleep even faster since moving here, I suspect because of a much more active lifestyle.
My roommate Heather frequently notes how much happier Coloradans seem to be. She and her husband moved here from Mississippi nearly three years ago, and the difference has been tremendous. To be fair, she left Mississippi after completing her medical residency. That’s not the easiest time of life!
But her point stands: People want to be here. I’ve seen an upset person or two, even on the ski slopes, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.
I suspect our outdoorsy lifestyle has a lot to do with it. Study after study have shown the value of vitamin D from sunlight (and, in Glenwood Springs’ case, Sunlight). There’s evidence to suggest taking a walk outside helps reduce rumination. You can get these things anywhere, yes, but it sure is easier in a place where a sedentary lifestyle is anathema.
As for me, I’ve definitely seen a decrease in my stress level since moving. I’m sure that’s at least partly related to moving from an urban environment to a slower-paced, small town. Yes, housing — and everything else — costs more, and I spend every spare cent on outdoors gear. But I also spend less time in my car and more time outside. Alabama played a role in that; I started hiking in the South, largely to put my stress in perspective. In the woods, work stress or federal policy don’t seem quite as daunting, at least in the moment.
But at the end of a busy day, I sure could go for some Southern barbecue.
Carla Jean Whitley loves her native Alabama, but she chose Colorado for its mountains, lifestyle and kind people. If you want to take her up on Alabama recommendations, though, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Christina Cappelli described playwright Steven Dietz’s “The Nina Variations” as providing a couple with a reset button, the ability to repeat conversations and say something differently and see where things will end up this time.