I first came across the Roseto Phenomenon in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. The phenomenon describes a small Italian community who, it was discovered in the 1960’s, had statistically the lowest rate of heart disease than anywhere else in the US. These were not healthy people generally, they would eat meatballs and sausages fried in lard rather than olive oil and smoke local cigars called stogies. So after ruling out diet and lifestyle as contributing factors the lead researchers John Bruhn and Stewart Wolf came upon the missing piece the X factor. They looked at social phenomena to explain it. It was the way in which the town interacted, the families, extended family and the village-like mindedness that kept the people healthy. It was the ability to walk in the street and meet your neighbor stop, talk and connect. Social cohesion was the mechanism of the nervous system’s regulation here. It generated a sense of safety and explained why these overweight chain smoking American-Italians had the lowest level of heart disease than anywhere else in the US. Sadly, over the years as the community started to assimilate deeper into the local population and become more americanized the effect wore off and today the community is statistically the same as the rest of the US.
Read Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on Roseto Here
Read The Research behind the Roseto Effect Here