Friend and colleague Linda Gionti is reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, Outliers. She shared this with me…
It’s about a phenomenon discovered in Roseto, Pennsylvania in the 1950’s. It was a town made up of transplants from Roseto, Italy. One physician noted that he rarely saw heart disease in anyone under 65 from Roseto. Another doctor got curious about this, because that was virtually unheard of–this was the time before cholesterol-lowering drugs and heart attacks were an epidemic in the US. He studied the entire population of Roseto. They thought perhaps it was because they brought their Mediterranean diet with them but no, the Rosetans had adopted American eating habits and had problems with obesity. So they started to look at Roseto itself.
“They looked at how the Rosetans visited one another, stopping to chat in Italian on the street, say, or cooking for one another in their backyards. They learned about the extended family clans that underlay the town’s social structure. They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded. They went to mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and saw the unifying and calming effect of the church. They counted twenty-two separate civic organizations in a town of just under two thousand people. They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the community, which discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures.”
“In transplanting the paesani culture of southern Italy to the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, the Rosetans had created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world. The Rosetans were healthy because of where they were from, because of the world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town in the hills.”
… “Living a long life, the conventional wisdom at the time said, depended to a great extent on who we were–on what we chose to eat, and how much we chose to exercise, and how effectively we were treated by the medical system. No one was used to thinking about health in terms of community.”