The Power of Community

by Tim Drevna, October 20, 2015

In the mountains near State College, there is a town called Roseto, whose inhabitants were immigrants from Roseto, Italy, some 100 miles from Rome. These people built modest, closely clustered two-story houses on the narrow, steep streets. They planted gardens, had town festivals, built schools and shops, a church, and garment factories. The neighboring towns were German-and Welsh-speaking, so Roseto, PA, was its own tiny, self-sufficient world—and would have remained so except for a man named Stewart Wolf.

Wolf, a physician, met some local doctors and discovered that heart disease was virtually unknown in Roseto—in the days when heart attacks were the leading cause of death in the US for men under 65. To make a long story short, Wolf and a team of physicians and medical students studied the town and its populace. The results were amazing: the death rate for heart disease was half that of the US. And, the death rate from all causes was 35% below the rest of the country. Meanwhile, the death rates in nearby Nazareth and Bangor were three times that of Roseto.

Sociologists were brought in to study the peoples’ diets, habits, exercise, soil, and genetics.

It wasn’t any of those things.

It was Roseto itself! The social structure, extended family clans, respect for the elderly, and many civic organizations had created a powerful social structure capable of insulating the people from the ills of the modern world. This became known as “the Roseto Effect.” As Dr. Wolf stated, “the sense of being supported reduces stress, and the diseases stress engenders.”

The power of community is the topic of a fascinating book by John Robbins, called Healthy at 100: Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples. Robbins explores the examples of four world cultures that have produced some of the world’s healthiest, oldest people. In addition to diet and exercise, it is the cultivation of strong, loving relationships, in the context of community that makes a human being truly healthy.

And so, it may be very important to ask ourselves: do I belong to a community? To what degree do I interact with others who live and work with me? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Make 2 personal comments or ask 2 thoughtful questions of every person you live and work with, each day.
  2. Each week, make it a point to have a 10-minute conversation with someone at least 10 years older and 10 years younger than you are.
  3. At least once per week, meet with the same group of people in the same place, in a non-work context.
  4. Participate in some community event at least twice per month.
  5. Once per week, connect with an old friend or family member who lives elsewhere; catch up.

We in the Drevna “Community” salute you! We are glad to know you, and feel fortunate to be a vibrant little community at our North Pointe and Fortius offices!

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