He, he, he. I couldn’t resist with the title… A new study from the University of Sheffield, UK’s Dr Virpi Lummaa says that men over 60 from 140 countries that practice polygamy lived on average 12% longer than men from 49 mostly monogamous nations.
Using data from the World Health Organization, Lummaa and Russell scored 189 countries on a monogamy scale of one to four – totally monogamous to mostly polygamous. They also took into account a country’s gross domestic product and average income to minimise the effect of better nutrition and healthcare in monogamous Western nations.
Lummaa stressed that their monogamy score is a crude first stab, and they are working to find multiple ways to assess marriage patterns. The conclusions could evaporate under further analysis, she adds.
If female survival is the main explanation for male longevity, then monogamous and polygamous men would live for about the same length of time. Instead, it seems that fathering more kids with more wives leads to increased male longevity. Men, then, live long because they’re fertile well into their grey years.
The explanation could be both social and genetic. Men who continue fathering kids into their 60s and 70s could take better care for their bodies because they have mouths to feed. But evolutionary forces acting over thousands of years could also select for longer-lived men in polygamous cultures.
“It’s a valid hypothesis and good prediction,” says Chris Wilson, an evolutionary anthropologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who attended the talk. But the care and attention of several wives who depend on the social status of their ageing husband could explain everything. “It doesn’t surprise me that men in those societies live longer than men in monogamous societies, where they become widowed and have nobody to care for them.”