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Nat Commun. 2016 Apr 19;7:11181. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11181.

Cumulative early life adversity predicts longevity in wild baboons.

Tung J1,2,3, Archie EA3,4, Altmann J3,5,6, Alberts SC1,3,7.

Author information

Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Box 90383, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA.
Duke Population Research Institute, Box 90989, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA.
Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, PO Box 24481, Nairobi 00502, Kenya.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, 100 Galvin Life Science Center, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, USA.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, 106A Guyot Hall, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.
Department of Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology, PO Box 30197, University of Nairobi, Nairobi 00100, Kenya.
Department of Biology, Box 90338, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA.


In humans and other animals, harsh circumstances in early life predict morbidity and mortality in adulthood. Multiple adverse conditions are thought to be especially toxic, but this hypothesis has rarely been tested in a prospective, longitudinal framework, especially in long-lived mammals. Here we use prospective data on 196 wild female baboons to show that cumulative early adversity predicts natural adult lifespan. Females who experience ≥3 sources of early adversity die a median of 10 years earlier than females who experience ≤1 adverse circumstances (median lifespan is 18.5 years). Females who experience the most adversity are also socially isolated in adulthood, suggesting that social processes partially explain the link between early adversity and adult survival. Our results provide powerful evidence for the developmental origins of health and disease and indicate that close ties between early adversity and survival arise even in the absence of health habit and health care-related explanations.

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