Are differences in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation across the adult life span linked to differences in survival? This question has been the subject of considerable debate. We analyze the link between survival and fecal glucocorticoid (GC) measures in a wild primate population, leveraging an unusually extensive longitudinal dataset of 14,173 GC measurements from 242 adult female baboons over 1634 female years. We document a powerful link between GCs and survival: Females with relatively high current GCs or high lifelong cumulative GCs face an elevated risk of death. A hypothetical female who maintained GCs in the top 90% for her age across adulthood would be expected to lose 5.4 years of life relative to a female who maintained GCs in the bottom 10% for her age. Hence, differences among individuals in HPA axis activity provide valuable prognostic information about disparities in life span.
Copyright © 2021 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY).