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Love and longevity: A Social Dependency Hypothesis


Mammals, including humans, are reliant for survival and reproduction on adaptations associated with sociality and physiological investment, which can be linked to interactions with their parents or other bonded adult conspecifics. A wide range of evidence in human and non-human mammal species links social behaviors and relationships - including those characterized by what humans call "love" - to positive health and longevity. In light of this evidence, we propose a Social Dependency Hypothesis of Longevity, suggesting that natural selection has favored longer and healthier adult lives in species or in individuals exhibiting enhanced caregiver responsibilities contributing to the success of the next generation. In highlighting cellular, physiological, and behavioral effects of mammalian reproductive hormones, we examine the specific hypothesis that the neuropeptide oxytocin links longevity to the benefits of parental investment and associated relationships. Oxytocin is a pleiotropic molecule with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, capable of regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the parasympathetic nervous system and other systems associated with the management of various challenges, including chronic diseases and therefore may be crucial to establishing the maximum longevity potential of a species or an individual.

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