In A Recent Baboon Study, Researchers Determined That Close Friendships In Adulthood Could Fight Back Against Poorer Health And Lifespan Outcomes Caused By Childhood Adversity

henk bogaard - illustrative purposes only

Research has shown that childhood trauma can have lasting impacts during adulthood. For instance, living in poverty or suffering abuse and neglect as a child has been shown to cause poorer health outcomes and shorter lives in adulthood as opposed to individuals who grew up in more stable situations.

Still, Elizabeth Lange, an assistant professor at the State University of New York Oswego, wondered whether there was some way that people who were dealt a challenging hand during childhood could overcome early life adversity.

That’s why she recently teamed up with other scientists to conduct a groundbreaking study, analyzing whether close friendships could help combat the effects of childhood trauma.

“I recently collaborated with statisticians and other biologists to understand whether harsh conditions in early life led to weak social relationships and poor health or if close friendships could develop in adulthood in spite of a tough childhood,” Lange explained.

“We also wondered if having close friends could potentially even make up for a poor early life.”

To determine the answers to these questions, Lange and her team studied a wild baboon population in Kenya. Animal studies are often deployed for hypothesis tests, which can be challenging to study on humans.

Baboons were the suitable human proxy for this research, too, since they have similar social relationships, behavior, physiology, and lifestyle. Past research has also shown that early adversity and social bonds have parallel effects on baboons as they do on humans.

The most critical finding from this study revealed that adult social relationships and early life adversity independently affect survival. In other words, while both of these factors have strong impacts, they are not dependent on each other.

According to Lange, this has been a key question among social scientists.

henk bogaard – illustrative purposes only

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