By Wanda Urbanska, Experience Life
Too busy to get involved with the PTA, the Rotary Club or your local gardeners’ group? Consider this: If you’re not a member of a single social, civic, religious or fraternal organization, and you join one, your chance of dying in the next 12 months drops by half, according to Lewis M. Feldstein, MA, coauthor of Better Together: Restoring the American Community (Simon & Schuster, 2003).
“If you join another organization that year,” Feldstein says, “your chances of dying drop another 25 percent.” In other words, engaging with others is as vital to your health as eating well, exercising regularly and quitting smoking.
Experts have dubbed the health benefits of close community ties “The Roseto Effect,” based on a landmark study that tracked a group of Italian immigrants who settled in Roseto, Penn. People who lived in Roseto were noticeably healthier and lived longer than their peers in neighboring Bangor, despite sharing such risk factors as fatty diets, an addiction to cigarettes and minimal exercise routines. What was their secret?
Residents of Roseto lived in a tight-knit, noncompetitive community consisting of three-generation households in which everyone attended the same church services and social clubs (and even followed the same weekly dinner plans).
The health benefits weren’t genetic. As subsequent generations left Roseto and assimilated into mainstream culture, their health advantages vanished.
Next: More on the Roseto experience and benefits of community