Stress and Health

Robert Sapolsky

Yesterday night, I watched a National Geographic documentary whose main topic was  “how does stress affect human beings?”. Robert Sapolsky’s research on the behavior of baboons in Kenya was the highlight of the documentary. Sapolsky, who is a world renowned neuroscientist, has been travelling for many years to Kenya to study a baboon society. His findings were impressive. Few words first concerning a typical baboon society: it is very similar to many human societies with respect to the existence of hierarchy. Baboons also tend to be aggressive with each other, causing stress to “inferior” baboons. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not seldom in human societies too. Hence, Sapolsky decided to study the health of baboons and found a clear correlation between the position of the baboon in the hierarchy and its health. Another interesting fact shown in the documentary was that the society which he has been studying at some point underwent a sudden change. The baboons found an abandoned building which was inhibited by humans infected by tuberculosis. The baboons who ate first the remainders of the infected humans died. However, these baboons were the aggressive baboons! The ones who were causing the stress to the subordinates! Since then, the baboon society is more happy! The other interesting result shown in the documentary was the fact that mothers with children with special needs tend to age faster because their telomeres shorten at a faster rate. I recommend to anyone watching this documentary. The sooner we realize that stress is a sneaky killer and that we should try to enjoy our lives by avoiding stress and helping other people avoid stress too (e.g., mother with children with special needs)  the better for all of us.

Here are some links to start with for anyone of you who is interested:

http://fora.tv/2011/02/15/Robert_Sapolsky_Are_Humans_Just_Another_Primate

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