Relaxation index – Phoenix ranked as least relaxing US city

Last Updated On October 13th, 2023
Relaxation index – Phoenix ranked as least relaxing US city

Key Takeaways

  • Impact of Environmental Factors on Relaxation: Cities like San Jose, CA, and Jacksonville, FL, which scored well in terms of light pollution levels, peaceful environment, and coastal proximity, emerged as some of the most relaxing cities. On the other hand, cities such as San Antonio, TX, Dallas, TX, and Phoenix, AZ, which demonstrated higher levels of transport noise, significant light pollution, and limited green spaces, were identified as the least relaxing cities.
  • Relationship Between Urban Environment and Stress: There is a reciprocal relationship between urban environments and stress levels, and factors like light and noise pollution can contribute to increased stress and negatively impact individuals’ well-being. Exposure to high levels of light and noise could lead to disrupted sleep patterns, heightened irritability, and mood swings, exacerbating stress levels.
  • Significance of Relaxation for Mental Health: The study underscored the critical role of relaxation in fostering positive mental health and well-being. The research highlighted the potential therapeutic benefits of natural environments in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Stress management and relaxation practices can mitigate the detrimental effects of chronic stress on individuals’ mental and emotional health.

The last year has not been an easy one, from a pandemic to an election, and everything in between, we can say with certainty that it has been far from relaxing! 

After doing some research into external sources, we found that four in five American adults feel that the pandemic is a significant source of stress in their life, while seven in 10 agree that their stress levels have increased throughout the pandemic period. In fact, nearly half of adults (49%) in America who took part in a study conducted by APA, reported that their behavior has changed negatively due to increased stress with some reporting physical tension, a short temper, unexpected mood swings and yelling at a loved one¹.

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In light of this, we wanted to look into which cities Americans can add to their bucket list, when looking for relaxing vacations, or even more of a permanent move. 

Most Relaxing Cities 1

San Jose (CA) takes the top spot as the most relaxing city out of the 15 biggest cities in the US², followed by Jacksonville (FL) and Austin (TX). Meanwhile, San Antonio (TX), Dallas (TX) and Phoenix (AZ) rank as the 3 least relaxing cities.

We conducted research into both internal and external data to create the relaxation index and establish which of the 15 biggest cities in the US could be hailed as the most relaxing, and which were the least. Factors considered when creating the ranking were light pollution, peaceful environment, transport noise, green spaces, proximity to the coast and extreme weather.

Each city was ranked out of 15 for the six categories, with a maximum score of 90. The cities which scored the lowest out of 90 are the most relaxing. 

The top 3 most relaxing cities are:

  • San Jose, CA – 27 / 90 

This Californian city earns its place as the most relaxing city in the US, ranking in the top five for three of the six factors considered. San Jose ranks in first place for light pollution levels, additionally, 90% of residents in the city agree that they feel they live in a peaceful environment³, placing San Jose in fourth place for this factor.

  • Jacksonville, FL – 28 / 90

Jacksonville lands in second place on the relaxation index with impressive scores across the board! The city ranks in second place for light pollution levels, as well as sitting in third place for its proximity to an open water source. In fact, the city’s closest beach – Atlantic Beach – is just 9.78km away from the midpoint of Jacksonville⁴. However, Jacksonville ranks lowest for its green spaces with just 217.45 sq/m per capita⁵.

  • Austin, TX – 32 / 90

Unsurprisingly, this inland city ranks in just eleventh place for its coastal proximity, with the closest open water source – Six Mile Road – over 201km from the midpoint of the city⁴. However, Austin’s strongest advantages in this index are its low levels of transport noise – the city ranks first for this factor – and fairly high levels of green spaces⁵ (276.7 sq/m per capita).

Least Relaxing Cities

The 3 least relaxing cities are:

  1. San Antonio, TX – 49 / 90

This southwestern city ranks as the third least relaxing city out of the 15 considered for this index. San Antonio ranks poorly for its high levels of transport noise³ as well as its coastal proximity (the nearest open water source is 194.17 km away from the midpoint of the city)⁴. Despite this, nine in 10 (91%) of residents in the city agree that it is a peaceful environment to live in³.

  1. Dallas, TX – 53 / 90

Dallas finds itself in the penultimate position as the least relaxing US city, ranking in the bottom spot for its coastal proximity with the closest beach an unfortunate 372.66 km away⁴. When it comes to light pollution, Dallas falls short once again in 10th place at 10600 (μcd/m2), almost double the amount in San Jose³! Fortunately, a lack of extreme weather in the city seems to save it from the bottom spot, with just 43 degrees farenheit difference between its hottest and coldest temperatures⁶.

  1. Phoenix, AZ – 55 / 90

Phoenix finds itself at the bottom of the heap as the least relaxing US city of the 15 considered. In fact, the city ranks in the bottom five for four of the six factors in the index – peaceful environment³ (14th), green spaces⁵ (13th), coastal proximity⁴ (14th), and extreme weather⁶ (11th). The only neutral factors are light pollution levels (9th) and its medium levels of transport noise³.

We also wanted to delve into some of the reasons why factors such as light pollution and green spaces can impact our state of relaxation. Research suggests that the reduction of melatonin caused by exposure to light sources can lead to disrupted sleep and daytime sleepiness, causing increased irritability and mood swings⁷. Additionally, research into the benefits of green spaces in urban areas particularly suggest that exposure to natural environments have largely relaxing effects – including lowering heart rate and lowering cortisol (stress hormone) levels⁸.

One of the first companies to sell mattresses online, Amerisleep was founded more than a decade ago with the main aim of offering customers a high-performance, eco-friendly, and American-made mattress at an affordable price. Since then we have fine tuned our manufacturing processes to ensure we are providing customers with a cutting edge, responsive mattress, made in the USA.

April Mayer, of Amerisleep, said:

“The past year has been an absolute whirlwind. While we were once able to leave the office and relax at home, we now find ourselves working from our bedrooms or dining tables and falling short on the relaxation aspect of life. Additionally, the fact that more Americans are feeling stressed year after year isn’t surprising. The challenges of everyday life, even before the pandemic, ultimately have an effect on us all. So, we thought it would be really interesting to look at which of the biggest US cities were most relaxing, for anyone who is looking for a change of scenery, but still after that city life.

“The results were definitely interesting to say the least! Knowing how heavily populated places like New York and LA are, it was surprising to hear that they weren’t the least relaxing cities in the list. Hopefully this will provide people with a guide for some possible getaway destinations when the pandemic restrictions ease up, or perhaps for people looking for a more permanent move!”

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Amerisleep chose the 15 largest cities in the US based on population. They then used publicly available data to assess city specific statistics on each of the 6 factors. Each city was ranked from 1 to 15 for each factor, with the highest total score of 90. The cities which ranked the lowest out of 90, were deemed the most relaxing. 

About the author

Stacy Liman is a journalism graduate student and a freelance writer with a focus on mindfulness and content marketing. Her passion for understanding and writing about the science of sleep enables her to provide valuable insights into achieving healthier and deeper rest. Stacy's commitment to helping people improve their sleep drives her exploration of new mattresses and sleep-promoting gadgets.

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