Recent headlines have called attention to the growing fiscal stress among U.S. cities. But what about the stress levels of people who live in these cities? The anxiety caused by deteriorating personal finances, especially as a resulting of unemployment, appears to be one major contributor to the overall stress level of residents.

Forbes has just released its 2010 list of America’s Most Stressful Cities, with Las Vegas taking the dubious honors at the top of the list. (Coincidentally – or not? – the Las Vegas-Paradise, Nevada metro area  also registered the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, according to July 2010 data released by RealtyTrac.)

While it continues to be a hot spot for tourists, Vegas residents have been challenged by tough times. According to Forbes, “the housing crisis and recession hit [Las Vegas] hard, and it currently has a 14.5% unemployment rate, the highest of all cities we studied.” The report goes on to say that while physical exercise is a proven strategy to reduce stress, Las Vegas residents exercise less than residents of any other large city.

In determining the overall stress level associated with each of the nation’s 40 top metro areas, this year’s Forbes survey considered six factors known to induce – or be a result of – stress:

  • Unemployment
  • Long commute times
  • Long working hours
  • Limited healthcare
  • Poor physical health
  • Limited exercise

Los Angeles and Houston took the second and third spots, respectively, in the 2010 rankings.

Chicago topped the 2009 list, which was based on different criteria – including air quality, population density and number of sunny days per year.