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According to Pericles (459-429 BC), "health is that state of moral, mental and physical well-being which enables man to face any crisis in life with the utmost facility and grace."
The Swedish echoed this insight in their Public Health Service bill of 1984-1985 which declares that "Our health is determined in large measure by our living conditions and lifestyle. . . ." and further states that "The health risks in contemporary society take the form of, for instance, work, traffic and living environments that are physically and socially deficient, unemployment and the threat of unemployment, abuse of alcohol and narcotics, consumption of tobacco and unsuitable dietary habits, as well as psychological and social strains associated with our relationships and lack of relationships with our fellow beings."
Many of the health risks in contemporary society are related to work, traffic, and living environments that are physically and socially deficient, unemployment and the threat of unemployment, etc.
"People who have healthy social networks have less disease and live longer than those who do not. A study of men and women over age 65 conducted at Duke University Medical Center found the risk of mortality to be four times greater in people who had little social support even when other factors, such as gender, health, smoking, economic status, depressions, etc., were considered.
"A Swedish study found that social isolation is one of the best predictors of mortality from all causes. Other studies have found that individuals who are 'self-starters,' able to initiate new social contacts and activities, have the least disease and the longest survival rates.
"Researchers are just starting to appreciate the importance of friendship at all phases of life. In addition to immediate family, friends are seen as 'family' by many older persons, and they lend important support in times of need. Studies are beginning to show that one reason women may outlive men is their greater skill in seeking and maintaining friendships. Mortality following the loss of a spouse is also lower in women, due in part to their better social networks." (Bottom Line Personal, July 15, 1991, p. 14)
What makes and keeps people healthy? No one really knows for sure. Certainly we have learned that certain substances or lack thereof increase our chances of certain diseases. Although medical science keeps learning, its tendency is to always try to identify physical causes of disease.
A sense of community may be just as important as food to good health without heart attacks
The small town of Roseto, Pennsylvania knows differently. Thirty years ago heart attacks in Roseto were so rare that researchers went there to see what was so unique about the place. They found nothing unique in how the people ate or exercised. But they did find that they had an unusually strong sense of community.
There is no longer a close-knit community in Roseto. A gradual unraveling has resulted from Rosetans moving from small neighborhood homes in town to large suburban homes. They drive to the supermarket instead of walking to the neighborhood store, and they attend church much less regularly. By 1985, Rosetans were suffering 50 percent more heart attacks and twice as much heart disease as in 1965 while their consumption of fat and cigarettes had actually decreased.
The researchers say in their update on Roseto that man does not live by bread alone. A sense of community may be just as important as food to good health. ("The Importance of Belonging," from the Medical Tribune 30, No. 26, 1989: 8-22, Edell Health Letter, March 1990, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 1-2)