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The power of community and stress reduction


When it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself, what are the first things that come to mind? I assume you most likely tell yourself you need to give up eating fast food and processed foods, start working out more, take your vitamins, and quit that bad drinking or smoking habit. If I can also assume, your first thought most likely is not to get involved in a club, invite friends over more for dinner, get to know your neighbors, or spend more undistracted, intentional “screen-less” quality time with the people you love and also support you in your life.

If my assumptions are correct, then it is time you start re-programming your likely conditioned beliefs about what is important for a healthy life.

While eating more nutrient dense whole foods in replace of processed “fake” foods, and exercising more are absolutely important for good health, they may not necessarily be the most important, or at least not the only things we need to be focussing on or possibly obsessing over.


If you don’t believe me, I invite you to take look into a unique study done by Dr. Wolf, on the community of Roseto Pennsylvania in 1961, where a community of Italian immigrants settled together in an enclave that recreated the Old Country in the New World.

The study, in the end, concluded that a close-knit community contributed to not only a reduced rate of heart disease but lower overall death rate as well.

“From 1954 to 1961, Roseto had nearly no heart attacks for the otherwise high-risk group of men 55 to 64, and men over 65 enjoyed a death rate of 1% while the national average was 2%. Widowers outnumbered widows, as well.”

These statistics were at odds with a number of other factors observed in the community.

They smoked unfiltered stogies, drank wine “with seeming abandon” in lieu of milk and soft drinks, skipped the Mediterranean diet in favor of meatballs and sausages fried in lard with hard and soft cheeses. The men worked in the slate quarries where they contracted illnesses from gases and dust. Roseto also had no crime and very few applications for public assistance.

Wolf attributed Rosetans’ lower heart disease rate to lower stress. “‘The community,’ Wolf says, ‘was very cohesive. There was no keeping up with the Joneses. Houses were very close together, and everyone lived more or less alike.'” Elders were revered and incorporated into community life. Housewives were respected, and fathers ran the families.”

Quoted directly from the Chicago Tribune article titled A ‘New Roseto Effect; “ ‘People are nourished by other people,’ said Wolf, noting that the characteristics of the tight-knit community are better predictors of healthy hearts than are low levels of serum cholesterol or tobacco use.

He explained that an isolated individual may be overwhelmed by the problems of everyday life. Such a person internalizes that feeling as stress which, in turn, can adversely affect everything from blood pressure to kidney function. That, however, is much less likely to be the outcome when a person is surrounded by caring friends, neighbors and relatives. The sense of being supported reduces stress and the diseases stress engenders.”

Keep in mind, finding and working towards creating a healthy community for yourself is just one area of stress reduction that is vital to work on. Emotional stress comes in many forms and may require a lot of self reflection, time and vulnerability to get to the root of it.

Other colleagues of mine that have worked with many clients over the years have been asked the question “What is the common theme between your clients that get better and those that don’t.” You want to know what their answer was?

The clients that worked on their emotional stress levels more than anything, which included many times getting rid of negative relationships in their life and developing more positive ones, overcame health challenges despite not eating perfectly clean or being consistent in any other area of what we are conditioned to believe is most important when it comes to being healthy. Interestingly, the clients that typically don’t get better are often the one’s that followed their diet plan strictly, were religious about their workouts, got good sleep etc., but were not open to working on emotional stress in their life. This is often the hard part we don’t like to deal with, but if we don’t, it can have damaging physiological effects on our bodies as it puts us in a state of chronic stress.

Don’t ignore this piece of your health. It could mean the difference between you getting well or not despite all other efforts to take care of yourself.


  1. Grossman, Ron, and Charles LeRoux. “A New `Roseto Effect’.” Tribunedigital-Chicagotribune, 11 Oct. 1996, articles.chicagotribune.com/1996-10-11/news/9610110254_1_satellite-dishes-outsiders-town.
  2. “Roseto Effect.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 July 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roseto_effect.