Thursday, February 19, 2009

Building Place Protects Health


Roseto, a tiny town in eastern Pennsylvania has some of the healthiest people in the United States of America. In the 50s before the advent of cholesterol-lowering drugs, heart disease was virtually unknown in Roseto and there was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction, and very little crime. When people died in Roseto, it was of old age. But why?

In Malcolm Gladwell's breakthrough book Outliers: The Story of Success, we discover that the secret of Roseto wasn't diet or exercise or genes or location. It was Roseto itself. Writes Gladwell:

"As [the researchers] walked around the town . . . 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 22 separate civic organizations in a town of just under 2,000 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."

Photo courtesy of dicarloanthony

1 comment:

Kenneth Reitz said...

Thought provoking...

Looks like some older "less-civilized" cultures had it right :P