The least and most stressful cities in the world in 2021, study reveals

Over the last year, anxiety has increased worldwide, adding to daily life stress factors. Data study determines the least and the most stressful cities globally, analysing various indicators across governance, environment, finance, and health to compare how stressful the living conditions are for citizens.

The Most Stressful Cities Index 2021 analyses the features of cities that cause us stress and ranks and compares global locations across a wide range of stress-causing indicators. 

The study has a line-up of 100 cities, and the data covers topics ranging from governance, assessing safety and security, finance to environmental factors like pollution and traffic. Levels of gender and minority equality were also scrutinized, including population density, air, light, noise pollution levels, traffic congestion and weather conditions. Next, several financial factors were evaluated, including unemployment rates and accessibility of healthcare, including the level of mental healthcare access. Finally, a Covid Response Stress Impact score was calculated by analysing how stressful the pandemic response of each government has been for its citizens and its effectiveness., the CBD and well-being brand, has released the study that ranks cities by assessing how stressful their environments are for their inhabitants. As part of its mission to promote inner balance and mindfulness, the company decided to look into common external factors that make city-living stressful for urbanites. 

Reykjavik, in Iceland, and Mumbai, in India, ranked at opposite poles

Reykjavik, Iceland

  • The least stressful city is Reykjavik, Iceland, ahead of Bern, Switzerland and Helsinki, Finland. 
Bern, Swizerland
Helsinki, Finland
  • Mumbai, India, ranks as the most stressful city in the study, followed by Lagos, Nigeria and Manila, the Philippines.
Mumbai, India
  • Manila is the most densely populated city in the survey, ahead of Doha, Qatar and Kabul, Afghanistan.
  • People living in Reykjavik, Iceland, have the best air quality, followed by Edinburgh, United Kingdom and Wellington, New Zealand. 
  • The worst air quality was found to be in New Delhi, India, followed by Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Karachi, Pakistan.
  • Oslo, Norway, has the best access to healthcare, ahead of Sydney, Australia and Tokyo, Japan.
  • Tokyo has the highest score for its Covid-19 response, meaning that it had the lowest stress impact on its citizens. Bangkok and Montreal ranked second and third.
  • London, UK, ranks 69 out of 100 cities.
London, UK

From stability to mental health and Covid response stress impact 

Below are further findings with the highest and lowest results in the index.

Socio-Political Stability

  • Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand, have the best Socio-Political Stability score (both 100), followed by Reykjavik, Iceland (97.8) and Bern, Switzerland (96.8). 
  • Kabul, Afghanistan, has the lowest Socio-Political Stability score (1.0), followed by Baghdad, Iraq, (2.4) and Karachi, Pakistan (15.4). 

Population Density 

  • Manila, the Philippines, has the highest population density (persons/km2 – 20,784), followed by Doha, Qatar (18,045) and Kabul, Afghanistan (16,126).
  • Sofia, Bulgaria, has the lowest population density (156), followed by Bern, Switzerland (174) and Oslo, Norway (179).


  • São Paulo, Brazil, has the highest Weather score (100), meaning it has the least stressful weather conditions, followed by Los Angeles, USA, (89.6) and Cape Town, South Africa (88.8). 
  • Mumbai, India, has the lowest Weather score (1.0), meaning it has the most stressful weather conditions, followed by Lagos, Nigeria (2.1) and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (6.0). 

Traffic Congestion 

  • Abu Dhabi, UAE, has the highest Traffic Congestion score (100), meaning it has the lowest congestion, followed by Madrid, Spain and Boston, USA (both 88.8).
  • Moscow, Russia, has the lowest Traffic Congestion score (1.0), meaning it has the highest congestion, followed by Manila, Philippines and Mumbai, India (both 3.3). 

Noise Pollution 

  • Reykjavik, Iceland, has the highest Noise Pollution score (100), meaning the least noise pollution, followed by Helsinki, Finland (90.6) and Zurich, Switzerland (83.6). 
  • Lagos, Nigeria, has the lowest Noise Pollution score (1.0), meaning the most noise pollution, followed by Lima, Peru (3.5) and Cairo, Egypt (9.3).

Light Pollution 

  • Bern, Switzerland has the highest Light Pollution score (100), meaning the least light pollution, followed by Munich, Germany (98.9) and Stuttgart, Germany (98.7). 
  • Doha, Qatar, has the lowest Light Pollution score (1.0), meaning the lightest pollution, followed by Kuwait City, Kuwait (32.8) and Cairo, Egypt (53.0).

Unemployment Rate

Bucharest, Romania
  • Bucharest, Romania, has the lowest Unemployment Rate (1.2%), followed by Bangkok, Thailand (1.8%) and Warsaw, Poland (1.9%). 
  • Lagos, Nigeria, has the highest Unemployment Rate (37.1%), followed by Johannesburg, South Africa (35.1%) and Cape Town, South Africa (26.0%). 

Social Security 

  • Brussels, Belgium, has the best Social Security score (100), followed by Paris, France (98.0) and Munich, Germany (97.8). 
  • New Delhi, India, has the lowest Social Security score (1.0), followed by Mumbai, India (1.0) and Hong Kong (17.4).

Mental Health 

  • Singapore has the highest Mental Health score (100), meaning the lowest prevalence of mental health disorders, followed by Jakarta, Indonesia (97.2) and Tokyo, Japan (97.1). 
  • Athens, Greece, has the lowest Mental Health score (1.0), followed by Lisbon, Portugal (10.5) and Madrid, Spain (14.1).

Covid Response Stress Impact 

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan, has the highest Covid Response Stress Impact score (100), indicating the response with the lowest stress impact on its citizens, followed by Bangkok, Thailand (96.5) and Toronto, Canada (92.8). 

Prague, Czech Republic, has the lowest Covid Response Stress Impact score (1.0), indicating the response with the highest stress impact on its citizens, followed by Buenos Aires, Argentina (43.0) and Boston, USA (47.1).

“We hope that the results of the study serve as a useful barometer for cities and citizens alike to reassess their environments and work together towards developing cities that are less stressful places to live.”

comments Finn Age Hänsel, Co-Founder of VAAY.


Photo credit: Pixabay

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