socializing for survival

Everyone knows that friendship is good for you: strong social bonds are important to health, both mental and physical. But it now looks like it’s also good for your children: Researchers have shown a direct link between having friends and reproductive survival. In a study published in the Nov. 14 Science, UCLA researcher Joan B. Silk and her colleagues analyzed 16 years of data from a baboon population in Kenya. They found that baboon mothers who were the most social, who spent the most time grooming and being groomed by other adult baboons, had more offspring survive to 12 months of age. (A baboon that survives its first birthday has a good chance of surviving to adulthood and breeding in the future.) Indeed, the most social females enjoyed a reproductive success rate that was about one-third higher than that of the least social females. “Until now, social scientists assumed that because females invest a lot in social relationships, they must gain a lot from those relationships, but we’ve never been able to make a direct link to reproductive success,” stated Silk. “These findings provide the first evidence that there’s a link between the amount of social involvement and having offspring who survive the critical first year of life.”

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 11/25/2003.
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