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"The Roseto Effect"

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by balto, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. balto

    balto Beloved Grand Eagle

    I love this article, It shows how beneficial meaningful relationships are to our health.
    "The Roseto Effect"

    People are nourished by other people. The importance of social networks in health and longevity has been confirmed again by study of a close-knit Italian-American community in Roseto, Pennsylvania. At first blush, Roseto seems a diorama of what once was the nation's ideal lifestyle-neighbors who looked after one another, civic-minded joiners and doers who formed the grass roots of American-style democracy. It seems to showcase those virtues that have all but disappeared elsewhere in what has become what we are now--a nation of strangers.
    At one time the village came to be a living laboratory demonstrating that neighborliness is good not just for the body politic (community) for the human body (self) as well. Now Roseto is changing, becoming a community of suburban commuters with satellite dishes, fenced-in yards, and expensive cars.
    Thirty years earlier, medical researchers were drawn to Roseto by a bewildering statistic: in defiance of medical logic, Rosetans seemed nearly immune to one of the most common causes of death. They died of heart attacks at a rate only half of the rest of America. Doctors were mystified in that residents led what medical textbooks predicted would be short lives.
    The men of the village smoked and drank wine freely. They spent their days in backbreaking, hazardous labor, working 200 feet down in nearby slate quarries. At home, the dinner tables each evening were laden with traditional Italian food, modified for local ingredients in ways that would drive a dietitian to despair.
    The Mediterranean diet, with its use of olive oil rather than animal fat, has been touted lately for health benefits. But, poor immigrants couldn't afford to import cooking oil from their homeland and instead fry their sausages and brown their meatballs in lard. Yet, the resulting hefty bodies contained unusually health hearts. Why?
    Study of the "Roseto Effect" began with a chance conversation over a couple of beers. A local physician happened to mention to the head of medicine at the University of Oklahoma that heart disease seemed much less prevalent in Roseto than in adjoining Bangor, occupied by non-Italians.
    When first studied in 1966, Roseto's cardiac mortality traced a unique graph. Nationally, the rate rises with age. In Roseto, it dropped to near zero for men aged 55-64. For men over 65, the local death rate was half the national average.
    The study quickly went beyond death certificates, to poke, prod, and extensively interview the Rosetans. Instead of helping to solve the puzzle, all the data simply ruled out any genetic or other physical sources of the Rosetan's resistance to heart disease. Two statistics about Roseto were eye-catching: Both the crime rate and the applications for public assistance were zero.
    Subsequent study showed that all of the houses contained three generations of the family. Rosetans took care of their own. Instead of putting the elderly "on the shelf," they were elevated "to the Supreme Court." The scientists were led to conclude that the Roseto Effect was caused by something that could not be seen through the microscope, something beyond the usual focus of medical researchers.
    It seemed that those groaning dinner tables offered nourishment for the human spirit as well as the body. In fact, all of the communal rituals--the evening stroll, the many social clubs, the church festivals that were occasions for the whole community to celebrate--contributed to the villagers' good health.
    In "The Power of Clan," an updated report on studies by Stewart Wolf, a physician, and John Bruhn, a sociologist, cover a broad period of time from 1935 to 1984. They found that mutual respect and cooperation contribute to the health and welfare of a community and its inhabitants, and that self indulgence and lack of concern for others exert opposite influences.
    Tracing the history of Roseto, the sociologists found that early immigrants were shunned by the English and Welsh who dominated this little corner of eastern Pennsylvania. According, the Rosetans turned inward and built their own culture of cooperation and as Wolf and Bruhn noted, "radiated a kind of joyous team spirit as they celebrated religious festivals and family landmarks."
    "People are nourished by other people," said Wolf, noting that the characteristics of 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 internalized 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 disease stress engenders.
    "We looked at the social structure of healthy communities," Wolf said, "and found that they are characterized by stability and predictability. In those communities, each person has a clearly defined role in the social scheme."
    Into the 1960s, Roseto was the epitome of predictability and conformity. In clothing, housing or automobiles, any display of wealth was taboo. Women knew that, from their teens on, they would work in one of the many small blouse factories scattered throughout the village. Even the evening meal followed a rigid cycle.
    "Monday" recalled 66-year old Angie Martocci, "almost everyone in town ate spezzati (a spinach and egg soup). Tuesdays, it was spaghetti and gravy (tomato sauce). Wednesday was roast chicken and potatoes. Thursday, spaghetti again. Fish on Fridays, of course. Veal and peppers on Saturday; and antipasto, meatballs and spaghetti on Sunday."
    All of that conformity reduced the distance between the haves and have-nots, thereby reinforcing everyone's sense of conformity also spared Rosetans the stress that comes with freedom of choice. (My comment: the anthropologist David Maybury-Lewis in his video series Millenium that individuals in a tribal society grow up in a defined world where people know their place and their relationship to others. We grow up with freedom, he says, in a limitless world where we are often lost and terribly alone.)
    Possibly the strongest conformity in the village was the work ethic. No only did everyone work here, they worked toward a common goal--a better life for their children. The reverence for work was the legacy of Roseto's first priest, Rev. Pasquale de Nisco. Arriving in 1896, De Nisco practiced what he preached. Taking up a pick and shovel, he started clearing ground next to the church to build the graveyard, where he now lies. Above all, De Nisco, whose influence is still strong in Roseto, preached education.
    In the slate quarries and blouse factories, the men and women of Roseto labored to be able to send their children to college, which they did at a rate far above the national average. By World War II, Roseto had a small white-collar class and was prospering. And of course with that, life began to change.
    Wolf and Bruhn's study took place just as Roseto's golden age of community was drawing to a close. They were able to predict that Rosetans then under 30 would not long be content with their rigid, traditional lifestyle. By the '70s, homes on the outskirts of town were in the suburbanized style that had become the American norm: large single family houses, swimming pools, fenced years, country clubs, and churches outside of the community.
    As people moved and achieved material success, they found those gains at the expense of traditional communal values with which they have been raised. One person said, "I'm sorry we moved; everything is modern here and we have everything I need here, except people."
    The principal of the elementary school said that children's lives changed. They went from days filled with activities to lives of watching from the sidelines. She found she had to teach children how to play jacks and marbles. The strongest evidence that change had come to Roseto was in 1985 when the town's coronet band, founded in 1890, demanded for the first time to be paid for playing at the church's big festival.
    As Wolf and his colleagues continued to monitor the health of the community, they noted that social change in the village was accompanied by increasing health problems. In 1971, the first heart attack death of a person less than 45 occurred in Roseto.
    Nationally, the Americans' vulnerability to heart attack began to decline because of the widespread adoption of exercise programs and healthier diet. At the same time, the Rosetan's rate rose to the national average.
    Roseto has lost its statistical uniqueness. Yet, it makes clear to a visitor that it retains a sense of community--one that would be the envy of almost any place else in the nation. For many families, eating remains a ritual of the communal nature of life here. On Sundays, extra chairs are drawn up and leaves are added to dinner tables all over town for a ceremony that satisfies both physical hunger and the hunger to be surrounded by people who share our lives.
    At Rose's Cafe, the only restaurant remaining in town, proprietor Rose Pavan calls everyone by name. Anyone with questions about menu items is swept into the kitchen for a sample. Children, most in Catholic school uniforms, flock in for an after-school snack--just as parents did back when Rose's was Mary's Luncheonette.
    A visitor is bound to come away from Rose's with a full stomach and even fuller appreciation how far the rest of us have drifted from the civic-mindedness that marked much of the nation's history.
    (My comment: this article is drawn from a series done by The Chicago Tribune on America's loss of community. Other articles focused on our changing urban/suburban social fabric. They noted the social changes implied by suburban homes where the garage is in front and both parents are employed, often an hour drive away. This article was especially relevant for medical anthropology's emphasis on bio culture, the interrelationship between culture, health and disease.)
    If older Rosetans are concerned that they have traveled too far down the path of materialistic fulfillment--a path that seems never to end in lasting contentment--shouldn't other Americans be at least as concerned?
    We now know that people's reaction's to the same stressful experience vary widely and those who have a greater sense of control, support and satisfaction in their lives are less at risk of illness. Those who get sick most seem to view the world and their lives as unmanageable while those who stay healthy have a greater sense of coherence and control through faced with the same problems. The Rosetans, to put it in Darwinian terms, were a successful adaptation.
    A wide range of illness reflects the role that ineffective coping and inadequate support play. The highest rates of tuberculosis have been found among isolated and marginal people who have little social support, although they may live in affluent neighborhoods. This article focused on heart disease, others are indicators of social life as well. These include respiratory diseases, accidents, and mental illness. Studies in England have shown that civil servants with the highest rate of death from coronary heart disease occurs amongst those with little social support. We are indeed nourished by contact with others.
    A study published in the British Medical Journal in 1999 found that people more than 65 who like to eat out, play cards, go to movies and take part in other social activities live an average of two ½ years longer than more reclusive people. Simply mixing with people seems to offer as great a benefit as regular exercise. Social and productive pursuits are equivalent to and independent of the merits of exercise.
    In a similar study at Harvard, it was found that those who were most engaged in productive pursuits were 23 percent less likely to die than those least involved in such pursuits. When each activity was examined individually, doing a lot as opposed to not much, extended live in almost every case regardless of the activity.
    Does humor matter? While it is popularly accepted that laughter speeds healing and fights disease, some researchers say that laugher isn't the best medicine after all. A review of humor research does not confirm a direct therapeutic effect of laughter.
    Does love matter? In a study of 10,000 married men, it was found that-in the subsequent five years-men who felt love from their wife had significantly less angina that those that felt no love.
    People who perceived themselves as socially isolated were found to be two to five times more at risk for premature death from all causes. Persons with low interpersonal conflict in their lives do best.
    ..... CJ '99
    Condor, B. "Romantic Rx Studies link love and intimacy to improved cardiovascular health" Chicago Tribune April 2, 1998.
    Grossman and Leroux "A New Roseto Effect" Chicago Tribune October 11, 1996.
    Justice, B. Who Gets Sick New York: Tarcher/Putnam Books, 1987.
    McFarling, U "Humor's touted medical value faces skepticism" Chicago Tribune July 7, 1999.
    Shaffer, C. and Anundsen, K. "The Healing Powers of Community" Utne Reader September-October, 1995.
    "Whether bingo or brunch, study touts socializing" Chicago Tribune August 20, 1999.
    plum, TG957, Ellen and 1 other person like this.
  2. Mermaid

    Mermaid Well known member

    Hi Balto,

    What a wonderful thought provoking article, adding strength to what we have all learned about our emotions effecting our health.

    Thank you for sharing it with us :happy:
  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think your post is very meaningful and important, Balto.
    Living with a sense of community is very healthy, but that kind of life is changing.
    I lived for ten years in a Chicago sururb on a dead-end street across from a hole of a golf course
    in one of about ten identical tri-level ranch houses. All the neighbors on that block
    were friendly and we gathered at about 6 pm almost every night to chat and drink
    a glass of wine on one front lawn or another. We were a happy, friendly block,
    caring and sharing.

    Ten years later, the suburban block I now live on is almost physically the same... a dead-end street across
    from a small forest, but it is not the community the other block was. Most of the neighbors
    hardly respond when said "Hello" to. The neighbor on one side of my house is all to himself
    and never even goes to the annual block party. Half the block doesn't go to it, either.

    Has everyone got so busy and preoccupied in the past ten years that they no longer feel
    the need or desire to become part of a community? I think people's priorities have changed.
    We need to work on that, to have blocks be more like small communities.

    I grew up in Chicago when everyone lived in sections called neighborhoods. They were
    a square mile or several miles of parts of the city and people identified themselves as
    being from neighborhoods called Lincoln Park or Belmont Harbor or Old Town.
    Those names are still called neighborhoods, but they don't feel as neighborly as they used to.

    I also remember, many years ago, when parents and their children and aunts and uncles
    and grandparents all lived in the same house. It might have been a bit crowded,
    but each house was a community, and those in neighboring houses often gathered
    together to play baseball in the street or drink soda or beer on others' front porches
    while someone in one of the houses played the piano with the windows open so
    the songs wafted through the block and people even sang together.

    The good old days were happy and healthy.
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  4. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Great posts, everyone. I really loved your perspective, Walt, as someone who has lived through it. When I was younger, I remember playing with many kids on my block and being given a cucumber as a gift by a nearby grocer. I suspect that these things don't happen as much any more and it is a huge loss.

    I've mentioned a series of lectures that I'm watching about mind-body medicine. Here's a short summary of what they have to say about the scientific research on what makes people happy. (Spoiler alert: relationships, and community, like they have in Roseto, are HUGE. And while some things can't change, others can.)

    • Researchers in positive psychology study creativity, enthusiasm, wisdom, insight, self-esteem, personal and professional satisfaction, and happiness (or, as it’s often called, subjective wellbeing). Research in positive psychology has found that approximately one third of Americans would describe themselves as happy. The father of positive psychology is Martin Seligman.
    Happiness is positively correlated with extroversion, spirituality, and belonging to a religious community. It is believed that those correlations exist because of social supports and relationships.
    • Although age isn’t generally correlated with happiness, there do seem to be two peaks over the course of an individual’s life in terms of when they’re happiest: in your 20s and in your 60s.
    • Income and happiness don’t seem to be directly related. If a person has more financial security, then he or she will be a lot happier—up to a certain point. Ultimately, happiness is more than just simple hedonic pleasure. Perhaps it’s about things like relationships or meaning, which aren’t really tied to income. ["money can't buy me love!"]

    I didn't have the happiest 20s (too much TMS that I didn't know about), but my 40s are turning out to be pretty good after all. I guess there are many other factors that go into these things, of course. Nonetheless, I find them fascinating. What is it about those two ages that would make them the happiest?

    All in all, I guess that that is just another way of saying that relationships and community are vitally important for a good life and happiness. And, of course, as Steve Ozanich pointed out so eloquently: happiness first and good health will follow!
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  5. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    What a great article. I grew up in Detroit in the 60's and 70's and we knew each and every neighbor up and down the street and around the block. Looking back, I realize what a charmed childhood I had even though we were usually struggling financially.

    Several years ago, we lived in a community south of Nashville. We felt like we fell into the rabbit hole. It was magical. Neighbors sitting on the porch sipping tea with neighbors. Children playing in the streets. Pool parties. 4th of July parades and fireworks…TOGETHER. I still miss that place. I do NOT however miss the corporate lifestyle it required in order to make the mortgage.

    Forest, interesting about the age thing. Didn't Dr. Sarno say TMS is most prevalent around the 30-60 mark, "the age of responsibility" or something like that?
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  6. Gigi

    Gigi Well known member

    I grew up in Chicago in the 1960s, and we knew every family on the block. It was an ethnic melting pot, and we differed with regard to religion, wealth, race, and other factors. However, our parents talked, and it really was expected that if someone saw you doing something youshouldn't, your mom would know by the time you made it home.

    My husband and I have talked about the lack of community in the various towns where we've lived over the years. I've never seen anything like the communities in which we grew up. I think those days are gone, since we prize our privacy so much.

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  7. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Interesting connection! Yes, I believe that that is what he says. I tend to think about that time period as representing the child rearing and prime work years.

    On a related note, when I was studying economics, I looked into the research regarding happiness levels a little bit. Economists seem to idolize the idea of "economic growth," but what if economic growth doesn't make people happy? Wouldn't it be better to study the factors that lead to high levels of happiness/subjective well being directly?

    Unfortunately, the idea never caught on in the US. I think that they take it more seriously in the UK.

    The Roseto story also reminds me of another research study that I've learned about from my mind-body medicine video lectures. This one is called "the nun study:"
    Researchers Danner, Snowdon, and Friesen (2001) have been studying a group of over 600 nuns since the 1990s. For one part of their study, they examined the language 180 nuns used in autobiographies they wrote as they first took their holy orders, when they were about 22 years old. The language of the diaries was coded for emotional content, or the amount of happy, negative, and neutral words and phrases present.

    The key aspect of this study that makes it so impressive is that the nuns all lived very similar lives. So things that we know can significantly influence how long people live, like diet, exercise, social support, marital status (yes, marital status), were comparable or the exactly the same for all the nuns. The researchers split the nuns into quartiles, and compared the happiest nuns (with the most positive language in their diaries) to the least happy nuns. Below is an example diary passage by a nun who scored high for positive emotion.

    “God started my life off well by bestowing upon me a grace of inestimable value… . The past year which I have spent as a candidate studying at Notre Dame College has been a very happy one. Now I look forward with eager joy to receiving the Holy Habit of Our Lady and to a life of union with Love Divine.”​

    As you can see, she was pretty pumped on life. Fast-forward about 60 years, and the researchers were able to show that the most positive nuns lived on average 9 years longer than the least positive nuns. Put another way, by the age of 80, 60% of the least positive nuns had died.​

    The spirituality, positive attitude, and high activity level of the nuns can't help but remind me of our very own Walt. For someone to have a book coming out at 84, he must be doing something right!

    Here's a video of those very same nuns. Apparently, due to their tight community and activity levels, they seem to have been somewhat protected from alzheimers as well. Quite inspiring:

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  8. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    How very interesting, Forest. Those nuns are just adorable! And whoa…they show alzheimers in their brains but they are asymptomatic? So many take aways here...
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  9. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Good catch on the Alzheimer's ;). Perhaps some day we can call those findings "grey hair of the brain"
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  10. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Forest, thanks for your kind words.
    I think dogs and writing have kept me going, and my mind and memory in good working condition.
    Also family and friends.

    And faith in the Lord and the Holy Spirit.
    North Star likes this.
  11. Lavender

    Lavender Well known member

  12. Lavender

    Lavender Well known member

    Wonderful post!
    Similar to the Roseto Effect-
    Asian countries, such as Japan and China, have some of the healthiest people in the world. There is little incident of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other illnesses that plague the U.S. and other Western countries. It was also announced recently that Japanese women have the longest lifespan in the world, much of which can be attributed to their diet.
    Recently, however, more attention is being given to the typical family profile and the fact that the elderly ancestors are honored, respected, and cared for, often within the same household as their children and grandchildren.
  13. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Years ago many families in America shared the same house...
    parents, their children, siblings, grandparents.
    They may not always have gotten along, but they were family
    and there was a sense of belonging and everyone looking out for
    each other. I miss that, and I think that the country has lost
    a lot because of the lack of it. Our elders have a lot to teach us,
    and they need to be with us, not sent to a hospice.

    Japanese extended family life sounds great. We need to get back to that.
  14. Lavender

    Lavender Well known member

    Well said Walt.
    If only we could all see beyond the shortcomings and limitations of the elderly and instead choose to learn from that generation.
    Admittedly, communal family living could be challenging but other cultures seem to thrive on it. Then again, there are TMS examples of the anger that is repressed during the years in which good people are caring for their aging parent.
    In a household of several generations, the elders could perhaps demonstrate negative attitudes based on their own particular upbringing or “programming.” However, with a little patience, kindness, and respect shown towards them, nuggets of stored wisdom, gained from life’s experiences could become the inheritance of their descendants.
    Dr. Sarno talks about fear of aging and Steve Ozanich writes about fear of abandonment being a factor in TMS
    The security of knowing that the family will be together, that the elders will not be put out to pasture, might go a long way to prevent fear- based TMS.
    The households’ young children witness that respect and learn from their parent’s example, thus softening such fears as they too grow older.
  15. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Here's a great video about the Roseto effect:
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  16. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    And here's a thought provoking video that reminded me of Roseto. Roseto = Rat Park.

    The interesting thing for me is what implications this has for TMS treatment. Human beings are made to connect with other people. It's one of the most proven sources of happiness in the scientific literature (something which your grandparents probably didn't need science to know :) ). And when we are happy with our lives, the reservoir of rage slowly decreases. Dr. Sarno wrote about this idea in MBP, and it's a real hidden gem: "The Rage/Soothe Ratio I believe a kind of rage/soothe ratio may play a role in determining when physical symptoms will occur. Patients frequently ask, “Why did the pain start now?” Invariably I reply, “Because your rage has reached a critical level; because it now threatens to erupt into consciousness.” Suppose, however, there is another element in the equation; that it is not simply the quantity of rage that brings on symptoms, but the presence or absence of counterbalancing soothing factors. Theoretically, these pleasant elements in a person’s life would modify the threat posed by the rage and make symptoms unnecessary. One can carry this to the point of absurdity, but I believe something like it goes on and that the occurrence of symptoms reflects too much rage and not enough counteracting soothing elements in one’s life."

    Do you think "Rat park" or Roseto can help you overcome your symptoms? In some way, this community is meant to be a bit of a Roseto for TMSers, full of supportive people who understand what they are going through.
    plum likes this.
  17. balto

    balto Beloved Grand Eagle

    with 50 thousand plus live lost in the Vietnam war, it was a terrible war. There are lots of ptsd sufferer come back to the States from that war. But Vietnam had lost more than 3 million lives during the war but ptsd is rare in Vietnam. I grow up there but don't know of anyone who suffered from it myself. Maybe the close knits family, the 3,4 generations under one roof has something to do with it. The same can be said of all other mind body illness.
  18. thecomputer

    thecomputer Well known member

    Three years ago I stumbled upon a mindful recover community in northern Thailand. I was completely lost and despairing at the time. I have no been coming and going since and I'm here right now. So I've lived here for a year and half over these past three years.

    It's about as close as you can live with others. 60 people from every continent, all ages, living in rooms right next to each other. We eat together, work together, meditate, have groups and workshops. It is for people suffering with addiction, anxiety, depression etc.

    The contrast when I go back to England is so huge now that I feel instantly lonely living in a house or flat alone and only seeing friends to catch up from time to time. Also the pressures of having to do everything yourself rather than spreading the load.

    Almost everyone who comes here heals hugely from their past wounds of loneliness and isolation. And people who have been miserable their whole lives find some happiness. The sad thing is that most people fall apart again when returning home. I see that more as a fault if the society we live in than any personal flaws. It's a shame.

    On the other hand, due to my current voice problem, which may well be TMS, this visit has been a huge struggle as I can't connect with most people or make new friends so I hide away alot and avoid interaction. And I can feel the sadness and loneliness creeping back in. It's obvious that feeling supported and part of something bigger is good for your spirit.

    But most people don't have the option to live in anything that even resembles the communities of the past or a place like this
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  19. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Robodelfy, it sounds like you have laryngitis, I knew someone who was under a lot of stress and he got it.
    Where you're living in Thailand is it a commune? What does it cost to live there, it sounds pretty cool, are there any Thais there or is it all foreigners? I might want to check it out someday, do they have a web-site?

  20. thecomputer

    thecomputer Well known member

    I dont have laryngitis. I have had tests. I do have chronic pharygngitis which I explained in the other thread you were replying in.

    The place is called New Life Foundation
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