New Yorkers are sleep deprived, stressed and their health is suffering as a result
New York is the city that never sleeps. But some New Yorkers have a different theory.
“New York is a city that never stops,” says Lindsay Goldwert, an editorial director at personal-finance site Stash. She’s not wrong: It’s a city with more than 8.5 million people who are all paying some of the highest rents in the country, commuting to work on crowded subway system that some say is desperately in need of an upgrade—and then the there’s constant noise.
“People come to New York to achieve a dream,” she said. “It’s a tough city. People work very hard. Often, people here have a second job in the evening. It often makes for a lot of stress, despite having worked a ludicrous amount during the day. You don’t live here to have a normal life.”
People come to New York to achieve a dream. It’s a tough city. People work very hard. Often, people here have a second job in the evening. Lindsay Goldwert, editorial director at Stash
Normal or not, all that stress adds up. In fact, there are more obese New Yorkers than there were a decade ago, and they reported issues with depression and diabetes, according to a series of New York University School of Medicine and New York City Health department studies published this week in the Journal of Urban Health.
What’s more, about 41% of New Yorkers said they had problems sleeping. Researchers analyzed physical examinations and laboratory tests and interviewed more than 1,500 residents between 2004 and 2014, including a sample population that represented different genders, races and other characteristics in New York City’s five boroughs.
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The number of obese New Yorkers increased from 27% to 32% between 2004 and 2014 and were mostly men, the data showed. Black New Yorkers had the highest rate of obesity (37%) and Asians saw the largest jump (from 20% to 29%). People who had no high school education, lacked health insurance and were immigrants saw greater increases in obesity than others.
Men had higher rates of risk for heart disease compared with women, and were more likely to suffer from hypertension. White women also had better heart health than any other women and all men, while black women were at the greatest risk for health problems, with a 20% greater likelihood than white men of being overweight or obese. (There was one upside: The levels of obesity in New York City were less severe than in the rest of the country.)
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New Yorkers also didn’t show any change in the amount of physical exercise they get, but there was a significant uptick in New Yorkers reporting that they spend more than three hours a day watching television or videos on the web (a 32% increase from 2004 to 2014).
One theory: Eating out and going to the movies costs a lot of money in New York City. “There’s so much stimulation, sometimes it’s nice to go home and shut off,” Goldwert said. “New York is an expensive place. Watching Netflix NFLX, -4.35% is less expensive than going out.”
The cost of living in New York City is almost 69% higher than the national average, according to personal-finance site SmartAsset. Sari Botton, editor of the anthology “Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York,” said she moved upstate because she was priced out of her apartment in the East Village.
Even legislators noted that New York City is overcrowded. In 2017, the city enacted a bill that would study locations with significant pedestrian traffic.
“It wasn’t a choice I would have made if I didn’t have to, but I’m glad we left,” she said. “I still miss the city and I go when I can, but often when I’m there I think, ‘I can’t imagine how you live here.’”
Botton said she’s noticed more chain stores during her visits, and that a lot of her favorite places have closed. The city is also much more crowded than when she left in 2005, she said. There were more than 8.54 million people living in New York City in 2016, up from 7.94 million in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Even legislators have noted how overcrowded it is. In 2017, the city enacted a bill that would study locations with significant pedestrian traffic and develop strategies to alleviate those bottlenecks. Noise is the No. 1 complaint to New York’s 311 hot line.
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And those long work days and commutes take their toll. “By the time you get home at night, it’s difficult to turn around and want to go out again,” according to Goldwert, who also hosts a podcast, “Teach Me How to Money.” She performed standup comedy in the evening for five years at venues across the city, but she put these ambitions on hiatus when she started at Stash in 2017. “I couldn’t have it all. It was really brutal. I felt like I’d lost a huge part of myself when I gave up standup. It was something I had to do for my own sanity. Otherwise, I would never have come home.”
The mental health of New Yorkers has suffered between 2004 and 2014. More than half-a-million (8.3%) have said they had symptoms of depression.
Not everyone can manage Goldwert’s work/life balance. The mental health of New Yorkers has suffered between 2004 and 2014. More than half-a-million New Yorkers (8.3%) said they had symptoms of depression, with higher rates reported by women and Latinos. What’s more, many said they were not receiving mental health counseling or taking medication for it.
“Before we had the term side hustle, people were working two jobs,” Goldwert added. “And we’re very caught up politically. New York City overwhelmingly voted for ‘not our president,’ so we’re online all the time. We order food from Seamless because we don’t to cook. We’re in bed with our phones and the day begins again. I’m married with no children. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people with children.”
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Still, even poor New Yorkers tend to live longer than low-income people in other cities, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at Social Security and earnings records. And the gap in life expectancy rates between rich and poor in New York was smaller (4.8 years) than in other major U.S. cities.
The cost of living in New York City is almost 69% higher than the national average, according to personal-finance site SmartAsset.
Low-income residents of New York City live 81.8 years on average. Gary, Indiana ranks the bottom of that list (77.4 years on average). Rich New Yorkers die sooner than top earners in other cities. The highest earners of Salt Lake City live 87.8 years on average, followed by Portland, Maine and Spokane, Wash.
And New York is still ranked 10th in the list of healthiest states, following others like Hawaii, Vermont and Colorado, according to America’s Health Rankings in 2017. Massachusetts was ranked first. New York made the largest gain, the report found, jumping from No. 18 in 2012. In 1990, when the rankings were first created, the state was ranked No. 40.
But that’s not enough for some residents of New York City. Playwright Lisa Tierney-Keogh is leaving New York City after a decade to move back to her hometown of Dublin, Ireland. She had grown adept at navigating the city’s sleepless, stressed-out and sometimes cranky characters. “I’ve finally gotten that deep knowledge where you come out of a subway stop and automatically know where to go,” she wrote in the Irish Times on Friday. I can smell crazy from two blocks away.”
“Despite my clear exasperation with New York, we’ve come to terms with one another,” she added. “I have learned how to navigate this city and its inherent chaos. I’ve figured out how to co-exist with a place that is simultaneously trying to beat you with a stick and tell you how much it loves you, all at the same time.”
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