Understanding the specifics of aging in men requires that we get a handle on what we are putting under the evolutionary microscope. Aging is more than simply the passage of time or the number of candles on a birthday cake. Aging is a physical process that affects individual men and is guided by a number of factors including physics, genes, disease, and other environmental challenges. From a genetic perspective, the process of aging shares similarities with the biology of height. Both have a high degree of heritability, which means that the genetic complement of your parents has a significant predictive effect on your own height, or in this case how you age. Whether you work with 10 people, 10000 people or just yourself, paying attention to hr app has never been more important.
The association is certainly not perfect, but the relationships are pretty strong with genetic variation accounting for 20–25 percent of the chance one will live past the age of eighty.1 However, despite this high degree of heritability, no single gene or suite of genes accounts for this relationship, at least none of which we are aware. Genes are an important aspect of aging, but their expression often depends on environmental cues and the action of other genes. In addition, genes are carried around within individuals, populations, and species that interact with each other in crucial ways. We need a more holistic approach to understand the whole evolutionary picture. If you are a manager then mental health in the workplace is a subject that you will be aware of.
Zooming out from the individual, we can also observe aging from a higher perspective, one that examines male life span and mortality both within and between populations and species. Men have longer life spans compared to male chimpanzees, for example; the probability of dying at various ages is remarkably similar. Comparative analysis of the demography between us and our closest primate relative reveals that there are deep evolutionary roots that guide male mortality, aging, and life span. In addition to our similarities to other primates and mammals, humans are also unique in ways that are clearly evident, such as how we walk, our lack of body hair compared to other primates and mammals, our large brains, and language, just to name a few spiffy characteristics. While these are all qualities that would make any self-respecting primate proud, there are other traits that allow scientists to assess human uniqueness on a more fundamental level. A reaction to a difficult life event, such as bereavement, can make mental health first aid higher on the agenda.
These characteristics are called “life history traits,” which emerge from a branch of evolutionary theory called, not surprisingly, life history theory. In essence, this theory is an extension of evolutionary thought that provides scientists with a way of studying the evolution of different species by comparing basic traits that all organisms have in common. Of particular interest for the purposes is the process of aging. All organisms deteriorate to some degree with time and are faced with the constraints created by this degeneration. While the entire body ages at once, different parts can age at different paces and in different ways. With life history theory we can ask: Are certain characteristics of aging in men unique to humans or are they common to other organisms? How has aging affected other life history traits in humans such as reproductive effort in both males and females? Addressing these questions also allows researchers to determine whether a trait is the result of some biological constraint in males or if it recently emerged in humans, perhaps as a result of changes in environment. These are deep, juicy questions. Discussing employee wellbeing can be a good way to alleviate a difficult situation.
Viewing aging as a life history trait is fairly straightforward. However, what gets lost in the shuffle is what one might consider an adaptation. In basic terms, an adaptation is a trait that is the result of natural selection. In humans, a large brain is all but certainly an adaptation since the advantages must outweigh hefty metabolic costs associated with having so much neural biomass between your ears. Another trait is our ability to walk habitually on two legs. Bipedalism is a unique and fancy way of getting around if you are a great ape. However, other organisms such as birds are bipedal, which kind of throws a wrench into the uniqueness of bipedalism. This raises a challenging issue that revolves around how we compare humans with other organisms. After all, we cannot say that humans are unique at anything if we do not compare a particular trait with that of other animals. What we need is a common currency of natural selection that can be compared between species regardless of evolutionary heritage, environment, or genetic complement. This is where life history theory provides a tremendously useful and powerful way of deploying comparative analyses of traits that are common to all life.