Why Having Friends is Good For Your Health

Why Having Friends is Good For Your Health

I wrote this blog a few years ago but it seemed fitting to review this Thanksgiving. :)

The introduction to the book Outliers describes the tiny city ofRoseto, Pennsylvania and the work of Dr. Stewart Wolf. Wolf conducted studies on the town in the 1960s and found that virtually no one under the age of fifty-five had died of a heart attack or showed any signs of heart disease while the rest of the country was undergoing an epidemic of heart disease. The death rate of men over the age of sixty five was half of what the rest of the United States was as well. Roseto’s death rates from all causes was actually 30-35% lower then expected.
Another amazing anomaly of Roseto was that there was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction and very little crime; no one was on welfare or had peptic ulcers. John Bruhn a sociologist involved in the studies stated, “These people were dying of old age. That’s it.” Wolf discovered that Rosetans were not on a special, healthier diet then other Americans either. Incredibly Rosetans took in 41% of their calories from fat. Rosetans also smoked heavily and many were overweight. Genetics also didn’t seem to be a factor.
Wolf discovered that the secret to Rosetans good health was their lifestyle. They lived 3 generations to a house and respected their elders deeply. Neighbors took the time to visit with each other and went out of their way to cook meals and simply support one another. In the 1950s when the medical community was used to the paradigm that our health depended on our genes and our individual lifestyle (perhaps it still is) it was nearly mind boggling to consider how the collective impacted not only the individual but the community as well.
I was excited to read these findings and thrilled at the book Outliersby Malcolm Gladwell (it’s an interesting read). What thrilled me most was the importance of community to our health. This is exactly the intention of Neighborhood Acupuncture Place’s approach to wellness by doing acupuncture in a shared space. The ancients have always prized community as a pillar of quality life.
Our society has more access to communication in a variety of ways and yet we have less and less physical contact. We know that if a baby has all of its needs met: food, clothing and shelter with the exception of being touched enough he will die. I can’t find any evidence that suggests that the need for touch, for understanding and companionship disappears as we get older. The majority of marketing these days convinces us that we need the “purple pill” to feel better, we own our IBS instead of our healthy bodies. It is through our diseases that we receive attention, feel loved and find identity. The goal of (community) acupuncture is the exact opposite. Through self awareness and a quiet space one can experience the body’s innate ability to heal itself. It is through the support of others that our health soars, as it is through supporting others that our health soars.