A little town Roseto, Pennsylvania became interesting in the early 1960‘s. A local doctor shared his findings of extremely low heart attack mortality rates in that little town. Otherwise very risky group of men from 55 to 64 years barely had any mortality, and with even older it was twice as low as the national average. It was as if they were immune to one of the leading causes of death. Two more things stood out and that was zero rates of crime and being on welfare.
Immigrants from Italian village Roseto Valfortore started coming to America in the end of the 19th century. In the time of the research, their direct offsprings made up 95% of Roseto inhabitants. Although many were smoking, consumed a lot of wine, worked heavy in the locar quarry and ate fat food because they couldn’t afford anything else, the indicators of heart disease were great. No physical advantages of Roseto inhabitants compared to towns in vicinity were discovered.
The reasons of better health indicators the researchers had to find somewhere else, away from physiology and usual medical focus. In Roseto, very often three generations lived in the same house. Elderly were respected in a community and weren’t left aside. The village had common rituals, like evening walks, multiple social clubs, going to church. It seems like mutual cooperation and respect contributed to better health. It all started when they moved to America, when they were rejected by earlier immigrants and created their own community that was tightly knit. Research in other states showed similar effects of tightly knit communities, that were better predictors of heart disease that cholesterol levels. Isolated person internalizes stress and person surrounded by friends and relatives has support that lowers the stress.
Healthy communities offer greater stability and predictability and every person has clearly defined role in social network. In Roseto, women traditionally worked in the same factories and men had their own set roles. Most of the inhabitants traditionally ate the same food on the same days and that reduced the difference between the have and have nots, which further empowered the community. Less choice brought conformism, that brought peace.
The people of Roseto had in common pronounced work ethic for next generations, wanting to leave them with better live situation. Until World War II they’ve sent children to college more that nation’s average. Those young people left the traditional life and started building bigger houses on the periphery of cities and started leaving their community searching for a different life. In 1971. The first death of a heart attack of a person younger than 45 happened in Roseto. The rate of people that had heart attack rose to the national average.
In search for the more comfortable life, the inhabitants of Roseto, searching for safety, comfort and freedom, lost just that. Does it remind you of a world you are living in?