By KEITH WOMMACK — If you had lived in Roseto, Pennsylvania, between 1955 and 1965 most likely you’d be Italian. Roseto’s residents, during this time period, were mostly immigrants from Roseto Valfortore, Italy.
Not only were most of the residents in Roseto, Pennsylvania, Italians, they were consistently healthy.
During that same time period however, residents of the nearby town of Bangor didn’t have such a consistent picture of health. A mile separated them from predictable wellness – the Roseto Effect.
Because Roseto’s residents were so surprisingly healthy compared to the rest of the United States, researches, once they learned of the health differences, began to study every aspect of the residents’ lives to find the cause of their good fortune.
Joe Stampone, a relative of one of the founding fathers of Roseto, Pennsylvania, explains why early researchers were so intrigued: “Virtually no [resident] under 55 died of a heart attack; for men over 65, the death rate from heart attack was half that of the United States as a whole; and the death rate from all causes was 35% lower than it should have been. There was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction, and little crime to speak of. No one was on welfare and no one even suffered from peptic ulcers. These people died of old age. That’s it!”
So, what kept these Italians so healthy?
After intensive studies, researches concluded that the residents’ health wasn’t due to lifestyle, diet, or location.
In The Mystery of the Rosetan People Dr. Rock Pasitano details why the immigrants’ lifestyles and diets were not the key: “They smoked old-style Italian stogie cigars. Both sexes drank wine with seeming abandon. Rosetan men worked in such toxic environs as the nearby slate quarries …inhaling gases, dusts and other niceties. Rosetans fried their sausages and meatballs in lard. They ate salami, hard and soft cheeses all brimming with cholesterol.”
Researches then looked into their family gene pools for extraordinary health tendencies. They examined the lives of other immigrants from Roseto Valfortore, Italy, who were residing throughout the United States. These Italians living outside Roseto, Pennsylvania, were no healthier than the average American. “Genes” were scratched off the list of potential causes.
Next, researchers looked at the Roseto “water supply” and “quality of medical care” for the difference, but came up empty. Roseto’s water source was the same as the neighboring towns of Nazareth and Bangor. As well, all three communities shared the same hospital.
In the end, researchers concluded that the Roseto Effect had no medical or physical explanation. Dr. Pasitano stated: “Rosetans were nourished by people. In all ways, this happy result was exactly the opposite expectation of well-proven health laws.”
Joe Stampone (the great grandson) reasoned: “It was Roseto itself. The Rosetans visited each other on a daily basis stopping to chat or cooking for each other in the backyard. Extended family clans were the norm, with three generations commonly living under the same roof. They went to Mass and saw the calming and unifying effect of the church. There were 22 civic associations in a town of less than 2000 people.”
Sadly, Roseto’s oasis of healthy living faded. Extended family clans gave way to single family homes, and helping others gave way to self-absorbed living. As social ties weakened, so did the Roseto Effect. Soon, the physical health of the Rosetans mirrored the rest of Americans.
But, questions still remain.
If the Roseto Effect existed once, couldn’t it occur again? Can you experience health regardless of your lifestyle, diet, environment, or genes?
The Roseto story certainly pokes holes in the theories that hygiene, physical fitness, and diet regulation are what ultimately keep you healthy. A wise health expert is quoted as saying, “I tell you not to worry about your life. Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food or clothing?” – Jesus.
In the final analysis, was it love and heartfelt consideration from others and for others that made physiological difference in the Rosetans? Did people nourish people? Or was there something more? What drives people to care for others? What is the source of family and community spirit?
Families don’t create the love they lavish on others. They reflect it. Possibly, the Roseto Effect could be experienced if it was understood that each identity is where and how God’s nature is uniquely expressed.
Just maybe, when the cause of love and life is seen to be divine, the effect will be consistent health and happiness.
– Keith Wommack is a Syndicated Columnist, Christian Science practitioner and teacher, husband, and step-dad. He has been described as a spiritual spur (since every horse needs a little nudge now and then). Keith’s columns originate at: KeithWommack.com