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Living in Buffalo is less stressful than living in Reno, West Palm Beach or Honolulu. Wait a minute -- less stressful than West Palm Beach or Honolulu, where the economy is strong and stress means deciding whether to wear a sun hat?

According to a California State University psy chologist, Buffalo is indeed easier to cope with than many cities in the Sun Belt. In his article in the current issue of Psychology Today magazine, Buffalo scored 59th out of 286 metropolitan areas in the country in terms of resi dents' psychological well-being based on rates of crime, suicide, alcoholism and divorce. Psychologist Robert Levine said he was surprised that "the West and South, known for their mild climates and easy living, ranked highest and second- highest, respectively, on all four types of pathology." Levine, annoyed four years ago when his native Fresno, Calif., was ranked as the nation's worst city based on the traditional economic, cultural and envi ronmental criteria, decided to devise his own ranking system to measure people's satisfaction with their lives and their cities. Levine, whose city ranked 232nd on his list, said the traditional means may not be the best way to rank cities, because it assumes that those who live in better economic, cultural and environmental condi tions are satisfied with their lives. He concentrated on rates of crime, suicide, alco holism and divorce "because they are both causes and effects of social stress, clearly an important ele ment in psychological well-being." Under his ranking system, Reno, Nev., was the worst, and State College, Pa., was the best. Honolulu ranked 175th, while West Palm Beach, Fla., ranked 276th. Communities listed in the top 25 may surprise some -- Utica is among the best places, ranked ninth. Long Island was 17th, Poughkeepsie was 18th, and Albany-Schenectady-Troy was 19th. Binghamton finished 36th. Syracuse was 47th, El vesSunBeltOutintheCold mira 76th, Glens Falls 88th, Rochester 93rd and New York City 267th. Mary Lynn Acee of Crisis Services said Buffalo seems like a larger version of her home town of Utica, with its ethnic heritage and close families. "People seem to stay here," she said, adding that a reasonable cost of living might help lower stress here. Crisis Services handles telephone calls dealing with all four of Levine's yardsticks, but "it's so much more complicated than that," Ms. Acee said. Despite Buffalo's ranking in the study, she noted that telephone calls and participation in the agency's other programs have been increasing. "I think Buffalo is a very stable community," said Dr. Howard T. Blane, director of the Research Insti tute on Alcoholism here. Including alcoholism rates in the ranking system is valid, according to Blane. "There's no question it's a cause of stress in a number of ways," he said. According to Levine, the 25 best places to live were: State College; Grand Forks, N.D.; St. Cloud, Minn.; Rochester, Minn.; McAllen-Pharr-Edinburg, Texas; Altoona, Pa.; Bloomington, Ind.; Provo- Orem, Utah; Utica; Akron, Ohio; Sheboygan, Wis.; Lancaster, Pa.; Paterson-Clifton-Passaic, N.J.; Bis marck, N.D.; Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Pa.; La fayette-West Lafayette, Ind.; Long Island; Pough keepsie; Albany-Schenectady-Troy; Lawrence, Kan.; New Bedford-Fall River, Mass.; Bloomington-Nor mal, Ill.; Wheeling, W. Va.; Cumberland, Md., and Wausau, Wis. He said the 25 worst were: Reno; Las Vegas, Nev.; Miami; Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.; North Little Rock-Little Rock, Ark.; Panama City, Fla.; Odessa, Texas; Jacksonville, Fla.; San Francisco-Oakland; Los Angeles-Long Beach; West Palm Beach-Boca Ra ton; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Fla.; Phoenix; Oklahoma City; Orlando, Fla.; Sacramento, Calif.; Ocala, Fla.; Bakersfield, Calif.; Tampa-St. Peters burg-Clearwater, Fla.; New York; Houston; River side-San Bernardino, Calif.; Stockton, Calif.; Taco ma, Wash., and Tucson, Ariz.

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