Tampa Bay area doesnt have to be so sad

On November 29, 2011

St. Petersburg is the saddest city in America, with Tampa right behind at No. 4, according to a study by Men's Health magazine, which used such data as unemployment and suicide rates, antidepressant usage and numbers of people who admit depression.

St. Petersburg beat out even Detroit. Apparently even the residents of Detroit, a city that became the poster child for failure and decline after the collapse of its auto industry, are at least a little happier than the poor, despondent residents of sunny St. Pete.

It's hard to argue with the science behind studies in entertainment health magazines, so the solution is clear: The Tampa Bay area needs to cheer up. The rest of Florida could benefit from the same advice, as well. Miami, Jacksonville and Orlando also made it into the top 20 saddest cities.

The Men's Health article noted that city residents who live near gardens or parks are 25 percent less likely to be diagnosed with depression. The USF campus boasts its own botanical gardens and visiting Busch Gardens might also lift one's spirits. Over the past few months, three animal births occurred in the park - a Grevy's zebra, a cape buffalo and a sable antelope.

Another Men's Health article suggested exercise could help stave off depression. With Florida's adult obesity rate at 26.1 percent, according to a report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, exercise may not be such a bad idea. If Floridians felt more confident in their exercise routines, they may feel more confident visiting the state's world-famous beaches, which could further rouse their spirits.

Life in Tampa Bay is not so bad, though the area and the state have often been the butt of jokes. Recently, Conan O'Brien consoled Red Sox fans after the team lost a spot in the playoffs to the Tampa Bay Rays on his Twitter account, with the message: "Remember, Red Sox fans, they still have to live in Tampa."

A flurry of outraged tweets from Tampa residents caused O'Brien to issue a semi-apologetic tweet: "I want to apologize to all the people of Tampa for my last tweet. I'm sure Tampa is a fine place to live, if you're a mosquito."

Clearly, Tampa Bay area residents are sensitive about their reputation. Perhaps other cities and states could do more to help Florida feel better about itself. Compliment us on our beaches or amusement parks. Would that be so hard?

Maybe if Florida cities can build their self-esteem a little, they can join the pantheon of happy cities identified by Men's Health, such as Boston, Omaha, Neb., and Fargo, N.D.

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