There’s a little inside joke I have between my closest friends in New York City. I tell them I want us to live together like in Melrose Place (minus Heather Locklear and scandals).

Most of my friends in New York are transplants and a plane ride away from their families, so when hearing my suggestion they smile and nod in agreement. Even though we’re in our late thirties, the idea of having a support system right next door would provide reassurance that someone has our backs.

This idea echoes a story in Malcom Gladwell’s, Outliers. It’s about a community who lived long, healthy lives without proper diet or exercise.

The small isolated town of Roseto, PA, was founded by Italian immigrants in 1882. Stewart Wolf, a physician who visited Roseto, had a conversation with another doctor who said, “You know, I’ve been practicing for seventeen years. I get patients from all over, and I rarely find anyone from Roseto under the age of sixty-five with heart disease.”

This was the 1950’s, and heart attacks were an epidemic in the United States. Puzzled, Wolf went about investigating how this was possible.

Roseto, PA

He spent an extensive amount of time in Roseto pouring over death certificates, records, medical histories and genealogies. He found that the townspeople’s impressive longevity actually probably wasn’t the result of a good diet, as 41% of Rosetans’ calories came from fat.

Neither was it from exercise. In fact, you were more likely to see Rosetans smoking a cigar than training for a marathon. What Wolf found that distinguished Roseto from other towns was the following:

  • Rosetans visited, chatted, and cooked meals for and with each other.
  • Homes had three generations living under one roof and grandparents were highly respected.
  • The community discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success, and instead encouraged them to provide financial support to the less fortunate.

Wolf found that it was a powerful, protective social structure that relieved people from the pressures of the modern world. The Rosetans were healthy because of their’ focus on family and community.

A Paradigm Shift Around Health
It turns out that community, love, support, friendship, security, and spirituality all play more of a dominant role in our health than we may consider. This idea strikes against the notion that optimal health comes purely from diet and exercise.

We’re Not Meant To Go It Alone
A support system is absolutely vital to our own personal success. Believe or not, we need other people in order to grow. Take this idea to heart, because in creating the conditions for others to do best, we create the conditions for ourselves to do best.

Finally, here is an excerpt from HuffPo:

“In a recent review of 148 separate studies involving a combined 308,849 participants, it was found that people who cultivate strong relationships with friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers improve their odds of survival by 50 percent. More and more, the evidence shows that who we become is not determined by genes alone. Love has a lot to do with turning up the intensity in genes that strengthen us and turning down genes that weaken us.”

Imagine that.

With love alone, we could have the power to heal and age gracefully.

Originally published at