The sociality–health–fitness nexus: synthesis, conclusions and future directions

Charles L. Nunn, Meggan E. Craft, Thomas R. Gillespie, Mark Schaller, Peter M. Kappeler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


This theme issue has highlighted the links between sociality, health and fitness in a broad range of organisms, and with approaches that include field and captive studies of animals, comparative and meta-analyses, theoretical modelling and clinical and psychological studies of humans. In this concluding chapter, we synthesize the results of these diverse studies into some of the key concepts discussed in this issue, focusing on risks of infectious disease through social contact, the effects of competition in groups on susceptibility to disease, and the integration of sociality into research on life-history trade-offs. Interestingly, the studies in this issue both support pre-existing hypotheses, and in other ways challenge those hypotheses. We focus on unexpected results, including a lack of association between ectoparasites and fitness and weak results from a meta-analysis of the links between dominance rank and immune function, and place these results in a broader context. We also review relevant topics thatwere not covered fully in this theme issue, including self-medication and sickness behaviours, society-level defences against infectious disease, sexual selection, evolutionary medicine, implications for conservation biology and selective pressures on parasite traits. We conclude by identifying general open questions to stimulate and guide future research on the links between sociality, health and fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1669
StatePublished - May 26 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • Evolutionary medicine
  • Fitness
  • Health
  • Infectious disease
  • Social contact
  • Sociality


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