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The evolutionary ecology of health-related behaviours

Uggla, CE; (2015) The evolutionary ecology of health-related behaviours. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis explores variation in health-related behaviours from the perspective of evolutionary life history theory (LHT). LHT conceptualises behaviour as the allocation of energy to alternative functions and predicts that allocations will maximise genetic fitness. Past literature on health-related behaviours has suffered from methodological limitations, including a failure to simultaneously consider, and thus differentiate, multiple determinants, explicit consideration of how ecological effects vary between individuals and the use of extrinsic mortality rates. The present analyses overcome these shortcomings, utilising sociodemographic surveys from both low and high-mortality contexts. A series of key LHT hypotheses regarding the effects of e.g. local mortality rates, sex ratios, and maternal and child reproductive value are tested. In Section I, analyses of Northern Irish Census data demonstrate that higher mating effort relative to parenting effort is predictive of higher risk of preventable death (implying lower health effort) among men, and that parenting effort is associated with lower risk of preventable death, with larger effects among women. Over and above individual characteristics, ecological factors (extrinsic mortality rate, crime, adult sex ratio) are associated with preventable death, particularly among men, young individuals and those with low socioeconomic position (SEP), and with earlier reproduction in both sexes. In Section II, data from sub-Saharan Africa are used to test whether health behaviours closely linked to child survival are predicted by the reproductive value of the mother and the child. Maternal age positively predicts investment across all health investment outcomes, and birth order is strongly and negatively associated with investment. Maternal age and birth order effects were largely consistent across countries but several effects varied depending on whether the health behaviour was preventative or curative. Findings are generally consistent with LH predictions, and suggest that the LH framework holds much potential beyond its typical focus on traits characterising reproductive behaviour.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The evolutionary ecology of health-related behaviours
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1462450
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