Does Higher IQ Mean Longer Lifespan?

A Scottish research team found out, after about 70 years since conducting the study, that people with higher IQ appear to have a greater chance of living longer-at least until the age of 76.  This study was released in the April 2001 issue of British Medical Journal.

The study

The experiment began in 1932, when a group of 2,230 students from Aberdeen, Scotland, took an IQ exam when they were 11-years-old.  They tracked down their deaths over the years.  By 1997, those who have died before that year were found out to have significantly lower IQ scores compared to those who are living.

However, this effect is weaker among men, even reversed during World War II.  At that time, men who had high IQ scores were more likely to have died during their service in the military. 

Meanwhile, women with an IQ deficit of 15 points at age 11 had less than 75 percent survival, while their fellow women who had a deficit of 30 points were about half as likely to survive.

However, researchers Lawrence J. Whalley, PhD, and Ian J. Deary, PhD, could not directly confirm that IQ and lifespan are correlated, as disparities in life span may also be affected with social differences, health reasons, or simply knowing how to take care of themselves.

More than IQ

The researchers hypothesized that the link between IQ and common causes of death such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke, can be associated with their ability to avoid such diseases or get help when they need it.  Meanwhile, another health expert, who was not part of the experiment, suggested that social and economic advantages acquired by higher intellect may have direct or indirect influences on health and longevity.

Dr. Robert Kane, a professor of health services research and policy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said that we can assume that people with higher IQs probably got better jobs and had better social class than those who did not. 

He, along with his colleagues, had studied death rates among Catholic nuns in Mankato, Minnesota.  They found out that those who had at least a bachelor’s degree were more likely to survive old age than those who did not.  They also suggested that those who were more mentally active have lesser chances of developing serious dementia.