While the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated stressful work conditions for frontline and essential workers, workers in a wide range of other occupations must also contend with stress at work on a regular basis. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), nearly 8% of U.S. workers are employed in occupations requiring the highest degrees of stress tolerance.
Stress on the job can be caused by high risks, demanding customers, and tight deadlines among other factors. O*NET ranks occupations on a scale of 0 to 100 based on how much a job “requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.” With a score of 100, urologists are thought to face some of the most stressful work conditions. Many of the other higher scoring jobs, such as nurse anesthetists and physician assistants, are in the health care field as well.
While many high-stress occupations command high wages—such as those in health care, business, and law—not all do. For example, telephone operators, public safety telecommunicators, and retail sales managers are all among the most high-stress occupations, but their wages are at or slightly below the national median.
Chronic stress, whether from one’s work or personal life, has been shown to cause a range of physical effects. Long-term chronic stress can cause or contribute to the risk factors for heart disease, metabolic disorders (e.g. obesity and diabetes), and depression among other problems. Workers in stressful jobs are more at risk for these harmful conditions, but there are strategies—including exercise, getting adequate sleep, and having a strong social support network—for managing stress.
The share of workers in high-stress occupations—defined as occupations with O*NET stress scores of 90 and above—varies on a geographic basis based on local economic factors. Workers in the South and on the East Coast tend to be more concentrated in stressful occupations than workers on the West Coast. At the state level, West Virginia and Mississippi have the highest share of workers in the most high-stress occupations, with 9.4% and 9.0% of workers in these jobs respectively. With just 6.4% of workers in high-stress occupations, Utah workers are the least likely to work in stressful jobs.
To determine the U.S. states with the most stressful jobs, researchers at Smartest Dollar analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*NET. The researchers ranked states according to the percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations. Researchers also calculated the total number of workers in the most high-stress occupations, the median annual wage across all workers, and the median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations.
The analysis found that referencing the O*NET stress scale for occupations and wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in the highest-stress jobs earn a median $61,031 per year in Utah, compared to $39,480 across all occupations. Overall, 6.4% of Utah workers hold high-stress jobs. Out of all states, Utah has the lowest percentage of workers in high-stress jobs. Here is a summary of the data for Utah:
- Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 6.4%
- Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 94,800
- Median annual wage across all workers: $39,480
- Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $61,031
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Percentage of workers in the most high-stress occupations: 7.6%
- Total workers in the most high-stress occupations: 10,613,510
- Median annual wage across all workers: $41,950
- Median annual wage across workers in high-stress occupations: $68,595
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Smartest Dollar’s website: https://smartestdollar.com/research/cities-with-the-most-stressful-jobs-2022