The Rabbit Effect

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2019-08-27
  • Publisher: Atria Books

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An in-depth look at the science of compassion, the impact it has at a cellular level on our physical and emotional health, and the new medical model that is changing the way we treat the whole person.

Starting out as a clinician, Dr. Kelli Harding noticed an odd pattern with patients. The sickest people she saw often shared similarities in their backgrounds such as loneliness, abuse, poverty, or discrimination. Initially, she felt a vague sense of discomfort with the observation and tried to dismiss it.

But then after doing some research, she found a study from 1978 where a doctor tried to establish the relationship between high blood cholesterol and heart health. He fed a group of rabbits a high-fat diet, but found that sixty percent were not at risk for a heart attack or stroke. It turned out that those rabbits were being cared for by a post-doc who would talk, pet, and cuddle the rabbits while she tended to them. They did the study again and found the same results. Take a rabbit with an unhealthy lifestyle. Talk to it, hold it, give it affection—and many adverse effects of diet disappear.

These studies indicate something is missing with the biomedical model. How does kindness seemingly reach into tiny rabbit arteries and change plaque levels? It’s increasingly evident though that the vast majority of people’s health depends on factors outside of clinical care. While genes do play a role, the biggest contributor to health outcomes are social, political, and environmental conditions. Where a person is born, works, lives, and grows older—what the field of public health calls “the social determinates of health”—shape a person’s behavior and biology in profound ways.

In The Echo of Kindness, Kelly guides you through the inner world of the human body, our society, and the bonds between us, and pushes us to question what actions can strengthen our communities. She shows how humans exert a hidden influence on the outer world, which can have a vast unseen ripple effect on our own health—providing convincing evidence behind the science of kindness and connection.

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