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Similar to Humans, Baboons With Difficult Childhood Die Earlier

Apr 26, 2016 02:03 PM EDT
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Similar to humans, baboons who suffer from childhood trauma die early, a new study suggests.

A study conducted by researchers at the Duke University, Princeton University and the University of Notre Dame, reveals that baboons who suffer from stress at an early age, such as being brought up during a drought or having experienced the loss of a mother, would grow to live shorter lives.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study involved observing populations of baboons in Kenya's Amboseli National Park for 45 years. Since most male baboons do not stay in one place, the group decided to focus on 196 female baboons.

There are a total of six adversities used to assess the link between "childhood stress" and early death: drought in the first year of life, experienced density/competition, maternal dominance rank, maternal affiliative social connectedness, maternal loss before age four and the presence of a competing younger sibling born less than 1.5 years, which may divert maternal investment in the older focal offspring.

After long years of observation, they found out that those who experience more than three of the given adversities die a median of 10 years earlier than females who experience one or less of given adverse circumstances.

Furthermore, they emphasized that early loss of mother and presence of competing sibling at a young age are the main driving factors since "maternal investment" is important in young ones, Washington Post reports.

As explained by University of Notre Dam, "female baboons are generally quite close to their maternal relatives - their mothers, aunts, and sisters. They groom them, rest near them, and aid them in social conflicts much more often than they do non-relatives."

In addition, female baboons who experience the most adversity are also socially isolated in adulthood further giving proof that there is an existing link between early adversity and adult survival.

Since DNA of baboons is 94 percent similar to humans' the researchers think that the same might be true for human, even in the absence of those other complicating factors such as unhealthy lifestyle and lack of medical care.

As reported by Duke Publication, Susan Alberts, co-author of the study and Professor of Biology in Duke University said, "Wild baboons don't smoke or binge on junk food, and they don't carry health insurance. This supports the idea that differences in lifestyle and medical care are only part of the story."

"The results are important because they show that early adversity can have long-term negative effects on survival even in the absence of factors commonly evoked to explain similar patterns in humans, such as differences in smoking, drinking or medical care,"  Jenny Tung, another co-author, and assistant professor of evolutionary anthropology and biology at Duke adds separately.

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