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The MoneySuperMarket Stressful Commuter Cities Study

Sara Newell
Written by  Sara Newell
Updated: 16 Apr 2024

Globally more people are returning to offices, either on a full-time basis or as part of hybrid working models.

This means, for many, the morning commute is back, even if just for a few days a week. With some studies1 finding that just 15 minutes of commuting can raise our anxiety and stress levels, how we choose to get to work can have a bigger impact on our happiness than we might think.

But who has the most and least stressful commutes in the world?

The MoneySuperMarket Stressful Commuter Cities Study

The MoneySuperMarket Stressful Commuter Cities Study tracked the heart rate and heart rate variance of 300 drivers across 30 major cities in the UK, North America and Europe during their weekly commute to find the world’s most stressful cities to drive to work in.

How we measured stress

For each city in our study, the team took an average of the resting heart rate of each driver. Each participant was fitted with a heart rate monitor to measure their typical commute over a five-day period. The results were then averaged across all the participants from the same city.

To measure stress, we collected two pieces of physiological data from our drivers, their heart rate (BPM) and heart rate variance (HRV).

Your heart rate is simply how many beats your heart makes per minute (BPM). Generally, this becomes higher when we do things like exercise, and lower when we are relaxed. In the case of stress, heart rate can be a good indicator of your ‘fight or flight’ instinct being triggered as our bodies pump more blood and oxygen around the body. In our test, a higher BPM indicates a higher level of stress.

Heart rate variance (HRV) is the time in-between each beat your heart makes per minute and is measured in milliseconds (m/s). When we’re relaxed, our HRV tends to be high, and when we are stressed, it becomes lower. In our test, a lower HRV level indicates a higher-level of stress.

Once all the results were collected from all the cities, we combined our stress factors to create an overall stress score out of 100.

Top 5 most stressful cities to drive to work in / commute to work by car

Top 5 most stressful cities to work in: London, Los Angeles, Paris, San Francisco, Cardiff

According to the study, London is the most stressful city in the world to drive to work in, with an overall Stress Score of 92 out of 100.

Compared to the average resting heart rate, the study found that commuting by car raised Londoners' average heart rates by 25% (18 BPM), while also decreasing heart rate variance by 33%.

Rounding out the top 10 most stressful driving cities were Los Angeles (Stress Score of 84), Paris (81), San Francisco (78), Cardiff (67), New York (64), Rome (55), Glasgow (55), Istanbul (54) and Bristol (53).

London was one of four UK cities to make the top 10 in the list, with Cardiff, Glasgow and Bristol all featuring amongst the top spots in the study, trumping more populated cities.

Cardiff was the city with the highest stress to population ratio, placing fifth overall, despite having the second smallest population on our list of cities, second only to Nice, which just crept into the top 20.

Read the full results

Top 5 least stressful cities to drive to work / commute by car

Least stressful cities to work in: Stockholm, Berlin, Toronto, Montreal, Sydney

The study found Stockholm in Sweden was the least stressful city for drivers to commute with an overall Stress Score of just 12, compared to London’s 92.

Drivers in the Swedish capital experienced just a 3% uplift in their heart rate while driving and a minimal 5% decrease in HRV, indicating a very low level of stress during their commute.

Other low stress cities included Berlin, Sydney and both Canadian cities in the study, Montreal and Toronto.

Sources of road stress

According to our study participants2, traffic was the biggest source of their stress while commuting, with 54% stating it was the main point of frustration. Road layouts or restrictions were also a source of irritation, with just over a quarter (26%) listing these as their number one bugbear, rising to 34% among UK based drivers.

Nearly all (84%) of our participants felt they were a better than average driver, despite just over half (52%) feeling the general level of other’s driving ability had deteriorated in recent years. In fact, just under three quarters (71%) felt driving had become more stressful since the Covid pandemic.

While traffic levels and road restrictions topped the list, just under one in 10 (9%) said other driver’s behaviour made their blood boil the most on the road, with almost the same amount (8%) feeling the same way towards other road users.

Sara Newell
Sara Newell
Car & Van Insurance Expert

Our expert says

For many, the rush hour commute can be one of the most stressful times of the day. Our study found UK cities ranked particularly highly against other countries for driving stress limits, suggesting UK drivers have some of the most stressful commuting experiences behind the wheel. To make your drive as stress free as possible and avoid any incidents on the roads, allow yourself enough time to get to work and check for diversions or build up in traffic via travel bulletins or travel apps before setting off. If you drive to work it’s important that you have the right insurance to protect you and your car. When it comes to renewing your insurance, it makes stress free sense to shop around for the best deal at the right price.

Whatever type of commute you have, no one should have the added stress of paying more than they need to for their car insurance. Take the stress out of insurance and let MoneySuperMarket do the hard work for you, comparing deals from the biggest providers in the UK so you can get the right cover, and save up to £550 on your premiums3.

Methdology

Between September – October 2023, the MoneySuperMarket Stressful Cities Study tracked the heart rate and heart rate variance of 300 drivers across 30 major cities in the UK, North America and Europe during their weekly commute.

Drivers in the study were aged between 25 – 55 with a clean driving history, driving a car no more than 5 years old and in good condition, with each recording their own heart rate during their daily commute to their place of work, across five days in total. Results for each city were then averaged.

[1] Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS)

[2] Survey of 300 study participants

[3] 51% of consumers could save up to £550.12 with MoneySuperMarket Car Insurance. Consumer Intelligence, March 2024. UK Only.