Monkey Business

  • Group of Monkeys

The other day I read an article about monkeys*. Yellow baboons from the Amboseli National Park in Kenya, to be precise. Scientists have been observing them, measuring them and mapping their behavior since 1971. Nearly 40 years worth of monkey business.

The median life span of a baboon is 18.5 years. Some baboons have it good. Others don’t. They suffer from drought, they are born close to a sibling or their mother dies. These are some of the factors researchers defined as “adversity”. Encounter three different sources of adversity, and the unlucky baboon will die 10 years earlier on average.

Interestingly, no less than 12% of that variation in life span were explained by social isolation.

Conversely, if a monkey has strong social bonds or connectedness, this improves their chances of survival in the face of adversity. The underlying biology is not yet known but there is data that suggests social status can impact the functioning of the immune system.

Either way, I took away three things. Bad health habits don’t explain everything because monkeys don’t have fast food or Netflix. When we call humans “social animals” both terms are important. And having a friend at your side is always useful.

Stay connected, stay healthy


*Scientific American, January 2019, Lydia Denworth, The Social Lives of the Amboseli Baboons

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