Social determinants of health and survival in humans and other animals

22 May 2020 Vol 368, Issue 6493


Social determinants of health and survival in humans and other animals
By Noah Snyder-Mackler, Joseph Robert Burger, Lauren Gaydosh, Daniel W. Belsky, Grace A. Noppert, Fernando A. Campos, Alessandro Bartolomucci, Yang Claire Yang, Allison E. Aiello, Angela O’Rand, Kathleen Mullan Harris, Carol A. Shively, Susan C. Alberts, Jenny Tung
Science22 May 2020
Social animals need connection
Much research over the past decade or so has revealed that health and lifespan in humans, highly social animals, are reduced with social adversity. We humans are not the only animals that are social, however, and similar research has shown that other social mammals are similarly influenced by isolation and adversity. Snyder-Mackler et al. reviewed the relationships between social environment and many aspects of health and well-being across nonhuman mammals and investigated the similarities between these and patterns in humans. They found many of the same threats and responses across social mammals.
The social environment, both in early life and adulthood, is one of the strongest predictors of morbidity and mortality risk in humans. Evidence from long-term studies of other social mammals indicates that this relationship is similar across many species. In addition, experimental studies show that social interactions can causally alter animal physiology, disease risk, and life span itself. These findings highlight the importance of the social environment to health and mortality as well as Darwinian fitness—outcomes of interest to social scientists and biologists alike. They thus emphasize the utility of cross-species analysis for understanding the predictors of, and mechanisms underlying, social gradients in health.