Chill out, Salt Lakers. You're living a Type A lifestyle. And it shows.
Your hurried-up pace of life ranks right up there with that of Bostonians, Buffalonians and New Yorkers, according to a California psychologist.It's a good thing the smoking rate is low in Salt Lake City and that it's a relatively peaceable city; otherwise a lot more residents of this apparently type-A city would be dropping dead from heart attacks.
Robert V. Levine, a psychology professor at California State University, Fresno, studied the pace of life and incidence of coronary heart disease in 36 U.S. cities.
"I'm trying to identify some facets about the quality of our lives," Levine said. "The pace of life is part of the psychological quality of life."
According to Levine, Salt Lake City has the fourth-fastest pace of life, right behind Boston, Buffalo and New York City. Californians really are laid back: Six out of 10 cities with the slowest pace of life are in California, including Los Angeles, which ranked 36th in pace of life.
Salt Lake City was the only Western city to be ranked among the 10 most hurried.
Levine's study has appeared in a number of scientific publications, most recently in the current issue of American Scientist.
Levine and a group of student assistants measured four factors to assess pace of life: the speed at which bank tellers fulfilled a request for change, the walking speed of downtown pedestrians, the talking speed of postal clerks and the proportion of people wearing wristwatches.
To measure walking speed, the researchers marked off a 60-foot segment of sidewalk in a downtown area and timed pedestrians as they traveled it. To gauge the pace of working life, they timed bank tellers at eight or more banks as they made change for two $20 bills or gave two $20 bills for change.
The researchers asked postal clerks to explain the difference between regular mail, certified mail and insured mail, recorded their responses and then calculated speaking rate by dividing the total number of spoken syllables by total response time. And, finally, they measured the proportion of people wearing wristwatches in downtown areas during business hours to assess concern with time.
Levine admits the measures are "quirky." Still, there is no getting around the results, he says. He found that, on a regional basis, the "northeastern United States is fast-paced, whereas the West Coast is a little more relaxed."
And when Levine compared pace of life rates to coronary heart disease rates, he found a significant correlation.
"The pace of life is a much more complicated subject . . . but it seems to work out on an overall level," Levine said. "There was a strong tendency for faster cities to have higher rates of death from coronary heart disease.
"Our data suggest that the pace of a person's environment is at least as good a predictor of heart disease as his or her score on a type-A personality test."
But Salt Lake City presents an anomaly: It ranks high in pace of life, but fairly low in the rate of coronary heart disease, Levine said.
"Salt Lake City did not follow the rule," Levine said. Undoubtedly, that is in part due to the fact that Utah has a low rate of cigarette smoking, a behavior associated with heart disease and with psychological stress. Beyond that, Levine couldn't explain why Salt Lakers seem to be in such a hurry compared to other Western cities.
Timothy Smith, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, said factors that cause stress typified in type-A personalities appear to work synergistically. The stress of a rapid lifestyle may not be as detrimental to Salt Lakers' health because they generally don't smoke.
And Salt Lake residents also don't demonstrate what many researchers consider the most important characteristic of stressful behavior: hostility.
"It (Salt Lake) seems to be a fast place . . . but unlike a lot of other fast cities, Salt Lake City isn't particularly an angry and hostile place. There is a more agreeable atmosphere here. If you bump into somebody on the sidewalk here they are apt to say `Excuse me' rather than something you couldn't print in the Deseret News."
And being a type-A resident of a type-A city isn't all bad, Smith points out.
"People get a lot done," he said.