– Is the Tampa Bay area as bad as it is being labeled?


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The Tampa Bay area was recently distinguished as “the most stressful place to live in America” by Bert Sperling’s “Best Places” of Portland, Oregon. The company compiles and analyzes data on people and places which is quoted in magazines and used to assist people in finding a suitable place to live. When I recently mentioned our ranking in a local Internet discussion group, several people became offended and jumped to the defense of our area. So much so, I began to examine how Sperling calculated the rankings. Actually, there were several factors considered, all based on data derived from 2012:

Divorce Rate – according to Sperling, at 12.3% we are second to Las Vegas. I know we have a ton of divorce lawyers in our area, but I never realized it was such a big problem.

Commute Time – how much time we spend in traffic can definitely add to stress, particularly if people are texting as opposed to driving. Sperling reports 28.3 minutes for TB; Index Muni reports 23 minutes in Pinellas, 25.6 in Hillsborough. The real problem here is not distance but rather our traffic lights which were programmed by some clod in the Department of Transportation. They’re so long, most people fall asleep while waiting for them to change.

Unemployment Rate – Sperling lists us at 11.2% for 2012, but both Pinellas and Hillsborough were no higher than 9.5% last year and is currently at 6.5%

Violent crime rate – In checking FBI Violent Crime stats, the Tampa Bay area committed 3,148 violent offenses which pales in comparison to Orange County (Orlando) at 5,325, and Miami-Dade at 6,913.

Property crime rate – FBI stats show Pinellas/Hillsborough with 26,506 offenses which is less than Orange County at 27,348, and Miami-Dade at 44,395. Interestingly, the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas were listed below Tampa Bay in the FBI reports, but not Los Angeles.

The Sperling report also claimed to take into consideration:

Suicide rate – In 2012 suicide was the 8th leading cause of death for Floridians (whereas it is 10th in the USA) – source: FSPC.

Mental health (days per month with poor mental health, from an annual CDC survey) – 3.5 days for Floridians; however, many other states were higher: AL, AR, AZ, IN, LA, MI, MO, MS, OK, WV.

Poor rest (days per month without adequate restful sleep, CDC survey) – Florida ranges from 13-19% who do not sleep well, which is high.

Alcohol use (drinks per month, CDC survey) – couldn’t verify.

Cloudy days annually – according to Weather Today, Tampa averages 121 cloudy days (101 days of sunshine), compared to Buffalo with 208 cloudy days, 132 for New York City, and 176 for Chicago. By comparison, we do not look too bad.

Of the 50 major metropolitan areas in the study, Florida had six entries which all rated highly:

1 – Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater 3 – Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall 4 – Jacksonville 6 – Orlando-Kissimmee 10 – West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach

11 – Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield

Interestingly, the big cities all ranked below Florida:

14 – Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale 16 – Chicago-Naperville-Joliet 23 – Philadelphia

27 – New York-White Plains-Wayne

It’s disturbing I couldn’t verify Sperling’s sources and the weighting factors used in its calculation. Tampa Bay is certainly not perfect but I hardly believe it to be the most stressful city in the country, as well as the other Florida metro areas mentioned in the report.

At the bottom of the list, and thereby being recognized as the “least stressful,” was the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro area, a fine place which I have visited. Their forte is winter sports. Ours is great restaurants, year-round golf, beaches and parks, boating, fishing and water sports, but I guess Sperling has no interest in these variables. Maybe this is what chaffed the people in my discussion group and caused them to growl at the study. Then again, maybe they were just stressed out.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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