In the 1960s, a US town called Roseto was an anomaly in America. No one under the age of 55 had died of a heart attack or showed any signs of heart disease. The local death rate for men of 65 was half that of the two neighbouring towns.
Dr Stewart Wolf led a team of researchers who investigated whether this was because of their diet, family history, exercise regimes or geographical location but they found nothing different from the rest of America. In fact, the town was made up of immigrants who worked in factories, smoked unfiltered cigars, and had dinner tables filled with rich Italian food and wine.
Link Between Family, Friends and Heart Disease
What they did find was that the Rosetans of this time period still held on to their traditional ways. Majority of households had three generations living under one roof. Eighty percent of men were members of at least one community group and there were 22 separate civic organisations in a town of less than 2000 people! They would gather in each other’s kitchens, play cards and simply talk. When problems arose, there was no secrecy and friends and family rallied.
The corner stone of Roseto life was family.
Over the next decade the Rosetan lifestyle became more westernised. The generational homes broke up, and by 1971, when lavish houses, expensive cars and swimming pools appeared, the first person under the age of 55 died of a heart attack. By the 1980s, the rate of fatal heart attacks in Roseto was the same as the rest of the country.
When Roseto’s traditional close-knit, mutually supportive social structure began to crumble, the town’s immunity to death from heart attacks gradually came to an end.
Social Support Promotes Good Health
Today, we live in a self-reliant society where we don’t like to accept help and we don’t like to offer help to those we feel have brought their problems onto themselves. We are bombarded by voices around us that stir up hate and controversy. We allow the self-righteousness, fear and competition to rule our thoughts and actions, and in turn, rule our health.
Charles Dickens said, “We forge the chains we wear in life.” We have a choice to forge chains of hate and negativity or a choice to forge chains of love and social support. Our health depends on it.