Take a Lesson from a Baboon – Being Nice Matters
In Fit As Fido, there’s a chapter devoted to getting involved and making friends in your community. This chapter encourages you to take a lesson from Fido and put interacting with friends on the top of your to-do list. Research has consistently shown that engaging with neighbors, conversing with friends, and participating in your community will not only improve your mood, they’ll also keep you healthier and living longer.
This month, new research from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania proves that Fido’s approach is spot on. In their study, to be published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, investigators shared the results of seven years of studying relationships and behavior among 45 wild female baboons. Researchers divided the baboons into three categories. There were “nice” baboons who were friendly to all the other baboons, even those who ranked lower in their social class. There were the “aloof” baboons who were less friendly and often aggressive. These females were seen as “exclusive,” tending to interact most often with a smaller select group of baboons. And then there were the “loner” baboons that kept to themselves.
Researchers found that, if you’re a female baboon, it pays to socialize with your neighbors. Both the nice and aloof females formed strong social bonds and were able to maintain more stable relationships. Stress hormone levels were lower in these baboons, their babies thrived, and they lived longer. The loner females lacked good social support and they tended to have higher stress hormone levels, shorter life spans, and reproductive problems. The researchers concluded that more work is needed to determine if there are differences in health or other measures between nice and aloof baboons. They did feel, however, that the data supports that making and maintaining social connections—whether you like to chat with everyone or keep a smaller group of friends—was important for reduced stress, successful reproduction, and a longer life.
So take a lesson from Fido and baboons—connect with your friends and neighbors. It’s good for your health.