The Roseto Effect: The Important Role of Relationships on Our Health

elephants-196613_960_720To stay healthy, eat well, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep, right? But what if you’re lonely and sad or have relationships filled with conflict that make restful sleep difficult to obtain? Researchers are discovering that having healthy relationships is another aspect of health that can’t be ignored.

The Roseto effect is named after a small town in Pennsylvania. In the 1960s, doctors noticed that the Italian immigrants in this small town had a nearly non-existent incidence of heart disease, despite a diet full of heavy meats, cheeses, and wine, and being surrounded by slate quarries, which can throw dust and toxic chemicals into the air.

The people of Roseto shared meals, supported each other, and worked hard. Crime was virtually unheard of. All of these immigrants shared a common goal: to provide a better life for their children. And they did. Their children were educated and went on to have successful careers that allowed them to buy every material thing they needed. Unfortunately, however, the second generation experienced relationship break-down and eventually, their rates of heart disease mirrored those of the surrounding towns.

The take-away from this is that relationships matter. Strong relationships can make people happy and happy people take better care of themselves. People who take care of themselves have more energy to focus on their relationships and career goals, which makes them happy. It’s a never-ending cycle of good feelings. So of course people should eat well, exercise, and sleep, but they should also pick up the phone, take a walk with a friend, or have a conversation with their spouse. These experiences are some of the most pleasurable in life.

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