The Resoto Effect

The Roseto Effect is one of the major studies that explains the correlation between social relationships and their impact on overall health. This study explains how closely-knit social connections help to relieve stress.

Roseto is a hilly town in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, USA and in the late 1950s had a population of around 1,500 people made up mainly of Italian immigrants. What sparked the interest of researchers was that very few patients were visiting their local doctor with myocardial infarction. Moreover, there were very few cases of peptic ulcers in the town. And the town did not have any reports of suicides, drug addiction, alcoholism, or even crimes. These statistics did not match other places in Pennsylvania so they studied death certificates in Roseto between the mid-level 1950s and 1960s at the local, state, and federal level. The study revealed that people dying of a heart attack was a rare occurrence in Roseto, though they regularly had red wine, ate pasta and sausages for feasts, and smoked cigars, heart disease was very rare. However, they were not a luxury community. They were generally working class and followed a lower or middle-class lifestyle. They were not the kind of people who exercised regularly. Most of the people were obese or overweight there.

Initially, researchers thought the reason behind this unique phenomenon was the Italian Mediterranean diet that people usually followed in the region. It took many years of further research and study to understand the reason behind the lack of heart-attack-related mortality in Roseto. Finally, studies showed that they had a closely-knit community with high regard for ethnic and social homogeneity; they had close family ties, and they had cohesive community relationships. The people in Roseto did not miss any opportunity to engage as a community. They attended local clubs, organizations, and other events regularly. Given the close-knit family system, several generations stayed in the same house. The elderly were always taken care of by the younger generation. There existed a cordial relationship among the neighbors. They spent their evenings cooking for each other and ate together in the front yard enjoying music and stories together. Another unique factor that researchers found out is that stress levels were comparatively very low among people in Roseto. They lived at a comfort level that reflected in their longevity, and their social connections played a significant role in reducing heart-related ailments among people in the town.

The increased personal connection to others in Roseto and social gatherings is one of the reasons behind the few to no deaths due to heart disease among community members, and other stress-related ailments there despite not prioritizing eating a healthy diet, or exercising. This study illustrates the importance of self-regulation and the significance of enriching social relationships and that they are powerful as a means to keep us happy and healthy, long-term.

As a professional credentialed coach it is important to encourage our clients to develop a community of like-minded people in their life, who have their best interests at heart – community is medicine.

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