High Social Status Linked to Better Health—At Least in Female Monkeys


A Duke University study of female monkeys reveals that a higher social status is associated with having better health, reported Duke Today.

When a female monkey's social status drops, it lowers her immune system genes. Fortunately, when her social rank is redeemed or increases, her health similarly improves.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the April 9 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to measure gene expression patterns related to an animal’s social dominance. Other studies have observed the effects of caste-level on genes in insects, fish and honeybees.

Researchers now suggest they can predict the social status of an individual with 80 percent accuracy by gene expression alone.

“Our study supports the idea that low social status can be bad for the body. But it hints at the idea that if you improve your social situation, your health improves, too,” says the study’s lead author Jenny Tung, a visiting assistant professor in Duke University's evolutionary anthropology department.

Duke scientists also noted that the environments of both humans and primates affect their hormone levels and mortality risk, as well as the survival of their offspring.