It appears the country is finding out what Flagstaff and Arizona residents have known for a long time: Flagstaff is a great place to live and visit. And, fortunately for those who live in Flagstaff, stress is less of a factor, according to SmartAsset.com, than almost all other cities in the United States.
To find the least-stressed cities in America, a variety of factors were taken into account, including:
- Physical activity levels
- Average hours of sleep per night
- Length of commute to work
- Unemployment rate
- Housing costs
- Median income
- Crime rates
- Cost of living
- Number of locally owned businesses
- Entertainment establishments
- Access to parks, trails, lakes and campgrounds
SmartAsset.com compared 500 cities with a population of more 67,500 (Flagstaff barely made the cut) and assigned values to the stress-adding and stress-decreasing factors to come up with a mean score to determine the top 10 and top 25 least stressed cities. Flagstaff was ranked sixth out of the top 10 and top 25 cities.
How Flagstaff Stacked Up
Boulder, Colorado, is ranked the most stress-free place in the U.S. to live, followed by Iowa City, Iowa; Duluth, Minnesota; Madison and Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and then Flagstaff. Wisconsin was the only state to have two cities make the top-25 list. SmartAsset.com ranked Flagstaff sixth based on the following statistics:
- Average work week: 34.7 hours – 18th lowest of all 500 cities reviewed
- Average commute time: 13.6 minutes – shortest time of all 500 cities reviewed
- Entertainment establishments: 21 places per 1,000 businesses
- Average hours of sleep per night: 7
- Physical activity: 63 percent of residents get the recommended amount of exercise per week
- Divorce rate: 9.3 percent
- College towns: Each of the top 10 least stressed cities is home to a major public university
Outdoor Magazine Ranks Flagstaff High
In 2015, Flagstaff was ranked No. 7 in Outdoor Magazine’s “16 Best Places to Live in America.” The magazine was looking for places with great access to trails and public lands, thriving restaurants and neighborhoods and a “good beer scene.”
Forbes Puts Flagstaff in Top 100
Forbes.com 2015 list for The Best Small Places for Business and Careers places Flagstaff in the top 100. Coming in at No. 68 out of 180, Flagstaff scores just under Prescott, which was rated 66. The rankings took into account employment, business costs, income growth, quality of life and education of the labor force. Flagstaff’s business incubators, international presence and public university helped push the city into the top 100.
What Makes Flagstaff a Low-Stress Place?
The rankings above look at statistics and data to determine placement. What they don’t include are the thoughts and opinions of residents who have chosen Flagstaff to be their hometown. In an unofficial Facebook survey of local residents who answered the question, “Why is Flagstaff a low-stress place to live,” comments included:
- Plenty of access to nature
- Strong sense of community
- Embraces diversity
- Low crime
- Four seasons and temperatures
- Plenty of events and entertainment
- Great downtown
- Trails, trails and more trails
- Community support and giving
- Business opportunities
- Snow play
- Easy access to bigger cities
- No one is a stranger
- Outdoor yoga
- Music, beer, wine and art
- Bike friendly
Ben Forstie, his wife, Lindsey, and three daughters chose to move to Flagstaff because they were tired of the big city and they wanted a more relaxed place to live. “We moved up from Phoenix about four years ago to escape the big city grind. We have been blown away by the ‘niceness’ of this town. A big difference is that we actually ‘know’ our neighbors by name, recognize people on a daily basis around town and feel safe. Now, when we travel to Phoenix to visit family, we can slowly feel the stress levels rise as we get closer to the big city. It is always the best feeling in the world coming home up I-17 to roll the windows down, put the arm out the window, and welcome the smell of the pines and cool air. My wife chuckles because I always let out a big, ‘Ahhh!’”
Forstie also chose Flagstaff for the entrepreneurial opportunities. Forstie and his brother-in-law, Joshua Makela, plan to open a new business in early August. Barn Brothers will provide an economical solution to obtaining household goods and will find ways to give back to the community. “Flagstaff supports local business and local businesses support Flagstaff,” he said.
Ashley Peak first moved to Flagstaff in 1990 and decided to make Flagstaff home. As a single mom and nurse who has years of experience in emergency medicine and caring for chronically ill and disabled children, Peak is always looking for ways to “de-stress” and spend time with her two daughters. Her stress-reliever is the outdoors. As a former river guide, she says being outside is the best way to relax. Recently, she joined a group of yoga lovers on Lake Mary for an early morning yoga workout on paddleboards. She also loves the fact that she can drive to work in less than five minutes, or 15 minutes when she rides her bike.
Perhaps Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours best sums up the low-stress factor: “Flagstaff is a live-and-let-live town. And, if you are feeling stressed, in five minutes you can be alone in the forest, which always helps.” FBN
By Starla Collins, FBN
Ashley Peak, a nurse who cares for ill and disabled children, looks to nature to decompress, often in a kayak or paddleboard on Lake Mary.