A young baboon huddles with its mother.

Sex differences in health and survival

My postdoctoral work in the Alberts lab at Duke is primarily focused on a phenomenon of modern human societies called the male-female health survival paradox, in which women live longer but experience higher rates of disability and poor health than men.

There is a great deal of evidence that components of this phenomenon have a long evolutionary history in humans (reviewed by Alberts et al. 2014), but interestingly, the paradox does not exist in baboons. Male baboons experience both higher mortality rates and steeper rates of age-related declines in health than do female baboons.

These findings call for additional comparative studies to resolve evolutionary roots of the male-female health-survival paradox in humans.

My postdoctoral work examines how social relationships and age-related changes in hormones mediate sex differences in health and survival, using long-term life-history data and noninvasive health measures. The project’s broader goal is to improve our understanding of aging in the wild to gain new insights about aging in humans.