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Smart children live longer – how did scientists figure this one out?

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Posted July 1, 2017

There is an old saying that being smart is bad for you. Smarter people are usually less social and more often suffer from depression and anxiety. However, there are many advantages of being more intelligent. Scientists from The University of Edinburgh have conducted a research, which showed that children with higher IQ are expected to live longer.

This literally means that smarter people are the ones who will live to an older age. If you are doing well on IQ tests (or in school in general) you are less likely to die young than the ones who are not doing so well. And that is quite interesting, because intelligence cannot really be linked to any of the usual features typically associated with longevity. The study basically was about finding the association between intelligence test scores measured at age 11 and leading causes of death in men and women up to age 79. Scientists used quite a large data pool, which should mean that the findings are accurate enough.

Children who get better scores in intelligence tests face a reduced risk to die before the age of 79. Image credit: Paik, Kenneth, Wikimedia

Data of 33,536 men and 32,229 women born in Scotland in 1936 was analysed in this study. Scientists looked up their childhood intelligence test at age 11 and then tried to link it with the cause of death before December 2015. Causes of deaths were pretty much the usual ones: coronary heart disease, stroke, specific cancers, respiratory disease, digestive disease, external causes (including suicide and death from injury), and dementia. Scientists did take into consideration other variables, such as age, sex and socioeconomic status, but still found that higher intelligence at the age of 11 can be linked to lower risk of death until age 79.

People who scored better in the childhood intelligence tests were 28 % less likely to die from respiratory disease, 25 % less likely to die from coronary heart disease and 24 % less likely to die from stroke. However, cancer was causing deaths equally on both sides of the field. Even injuries were less likely to take lives of people who did better in these tests. Professor Ian Deary, one of authors of the study, said: “We don’t fully know yet why intelligence from childhood and longevity are related, and we are keeping an open mind. Lifestyles – eg not smoking – education, health literacy, less deprivation, and genetics might all play a part”.

It is likely that more intelligent people are just making smarter life choices, but it could be some other genetic reasons. What if the same reasons causing enhanced mental capacity make people simply live longer? Scientists will have to continue their research to find out.

 

Source: The University of Edinburgh

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