It turns out that it is not just humans that benefit from close, non-romantic friendships. A new study revealed that female friendships may actually help male baboons live longer lives.
The study analyzed the data of more than 540 baboons in Amboseli National Park in Kenya*. Using statistical techniques to infer mortality risk at each age from sparse data, the researchers looked at whether the link between survival and friendship was the same for male and female baboons.
Analyzing data for 277 males and 265 females, the team estimated the ‘strength’ of the bonds in each baboon’s inner circle by measuring how often they spent time grooming with their closest friends.
The researchers showed for the first time in a wild primate that, not surprisingly, both sexes benefit from having strong social ties. But the results also revealed that male baboons that have close female friends have higher rates of survival than those who don’t. Males that maintained strong female friendships were 28% more likely to make it to their next birthday than their socially isolated counterparts.
* Beginning in 1971, researchers have followed individual baboons in southern Kenya on a near-daily basis, noting who they socialized with and how they fared over their lifetimes as part of the Amboseli Baboon Research Project.
Journal Reference: “Social Bonds, Social Status, and Survival in Wild Baboons: A Tale of Two Sexes,” Fernando A. Campos, Francisco Villavicencio, Elizabeth A. Archie, Fernando Colchero, Susan C. Alberts. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Sept. 21, 2020. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0621