Vegas: So cool, but so stressed

Evidently, negotiating casino obstacle courses to get to the buffet line doesn't qualify as exercise in Las Vegas. Neither do pushing video poker buttons, rolling dice or picking up cards.

Lack of exercise is one of the primary reasons Forbes magazine ranked Las Vegas as the most stressful city in the country. There's also high unemployment and generally poor physical health among its residents.

The stress ranking comes two weeks after Forbes named Las Vegas the "Coolest City" in America.

"To 36 million tourists per year, Las Vegas is a place to blow off steam and get away from the pressures of daily life," the Forbes article said. "But residents of the city are far from carefree. The housing crisis and the recession hit the city hard, and it currently has a 14.5 percent unemployment rate, the highest of all the cities we studied.

"Making matters worse is how few people are taking steps to relieve the pressure. Physical exercise is known to reduce stress, but Las Vegans exercise less than residents of any other big city. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey showed that nearly 30 percent of all residents hadn't exercised in the past month."

Forbes used six metrics to measure stress in the country's largest metropolitan areas: high unemployment, long commute times, long work hours, limited access to health care, poor physical health and lack of exercise.

Las Vegas was No. 1 for unemployment and limited exercise, No. 2 for poor physical health, No. 3 for access to health care, No. 6 for long work hours and No. 32 for commute time. Next on the Forbes list of stressed cities were Los Angeles; Houston; Tampa, Fla.; and Riverside, Calif.

Las Vegas psychiatrist Dr. Saleha Baig said she's seeing more patients under stress these days from financial circumstances.

"It's a big problem," she said. "People are losing their jobs right and left. I have a lot of patients moving out of town. They can't afford to stay in the city. Some are moving into the desert with no water and no electricity. Sometimes they have to move in with family. That causes more stress because they're used to having their own space and their own belongings."

Leonard Messina lived in Las Vegas for nearly 10 years before leaving to expand his ACN mobile network business. He spent three months in Salt Lake City and 21 months in Sacramento, Calif., before returning to Las Vegas.

Business was great, but the stress was the same, he said.

"They say the grass is always greener somewhere else, but let me tell you, while I was away, I missed Vegas very much," Messina said. "People do not realize the soulfulness of the Vegas neighborhoods, from Green Valley to Summerlin and everywhere in between. This city has a small-town feel with big-town attractions if you want them."

Forbes quoted a Las Vegas yoga instructor and therapist who said the 24-hour nature of the town keeps employees working around the clock and away from their families.

"They're too busy, they have too much on their plate and they're always hurried," Kathleen Grace Santor told Forbes.

A Forbes reader commented: "I find Las Vegas to be a much less stressful place to live than San Francisco. But I am a professional who lives in a very nice area of Las Vegas and find the easy parking, lack of constant fog and the traffic situation here much more tolerable.

"In my neighborhood, there are constantly people walking and running for exercise before and after work. There are always cyclers, many with teams, on the streets around my neighborhood. The parks are always full of people and there are many fitness clubs to join. This is not the case for many of the areas of Las Vegas, which may have been the subject of this story, but is not representative all of Las Vegas."

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at or 702-383-0491.