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Very stressful times

Feeling like you’ve been under a great deal of stress lately?

Of course you are.

While life in general can be stressful enough, we are offered little to no solace through the knowledge that the lives of all who are around us have become filled with even greater amounts of stress since the middle of March. That’s when most of society began to shut down in response to the concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issues have not really stopped growing since that time. We’re worried about jobs and the economy. If you have children, you likely are worried about how — or if, or when — they will return to school. We’ve been stressed out while trying to find simple things at the store — from toilet paper to hand sanitizer. Heck, for a while it was tough to find a decent steak.

There are some of us who have not spent a lot of time outside of our houses since the end of March, and, when we do go out, we have to make sure we keep 6 feet of space between ourself and any other person and wear a mask.

We’ve been worried about the coronavirus itself — whether we have been exposed or not, whether members of our family have been exposed and what steps are needed next.

If you run a business, you know that the best of times are stressful — but now? In addition to worrying about the day-to-day operations, there are regulations and restrictions that are changing every day, sometimes more than once a day.

And then the masks — do they help slow the spread of the virus? Are they mandatory or optional? And, because of where we live, we travel among Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania on a daily basis to shop, to eat and to work — and that means we need to be familiar with the different requirements in all of those three states.

Were our lives stressful five months ago? Yeah. Are they more stressful know? You bet.

But for everything going on all around us, you might find it comforting to know that our region ranks near the middle of the pack when it comes to stressful places to live.

That’s according, at least, to WalletHub, which ranks the Pittsburgh area as the 97th most stressful area in the country of the 182 cities listed in its recent survey.

The Washington, D.C.-based personal-finance website indicated that 39 percent of Americans say worry or stress about the coronavirus has had a negative effect on their health.

Pittsburgh, the survey said, ranks 82nd in work stress, 93rd in financial stress, 140th in family stress and 67th in health and safety stress.

Those numbers should come as little surprise to residents of our region, who have a well-deserved reputation for staying resilient even in the most challenging of circumstances. They also point out that the strength of relationships in families that our region has been built around.

Data used to compile the list included how vulnerable a state is to COVID-19 to average weekly work hours to divorce and suicide rates.

Pittsburgh ranked as the least stressed of all of the cities in our general area. Columbus was 75th, for example, while Akron was the 12th most-stressed city. Huntington and Charleston, W.Va., ranked 20th and 14th, respectively.

When you break the study down into categories, Anchorage had the highest number of hours worked weekly, while Burlington, Vt., had the lowest average hours worked. Anchorage and Honolulu tied for the lowest job security, while Glendale, Ariz, had the highest job security. The lowest median credit score belonged to Detroit, while the highest median credit score went to Freemont, Calif. The highest poverty rate belonged to Detroit, with the lowest going to Pearl City, Hawaii. Cleveland had the highest divorce rate while Fremont had the lowest divorce rate.

Residents of Detroit, meanwhile, had the lowest average hours of sleep each night, while those who live in Overland Park, Kan., had the highest number of hours of sleep each night.

As for the city that ranks as being the most stressed in the country?

That would be Cleveland.

It shows that a couple of hours can make a difference.

Now, go and try to relax a little and enjoy what’s left of summer — the Pirates have resumed play, the Penguins will be back in action on Aug. 1 and are considered a strong contender to win the Stanley Cup and the Steelers are headed back to camp. Of course, the Browns are headed back to camp as well, which likely means the stress levels in Northeastern Ohio will not be decreasing any time soon.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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