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It was the year 2001 when two scientists from the University of Aberdeen discovered an unexpected relationship after analyzing 2,792 people who were born in 1921. They verified that intelligence not only helps us solve problems, but also is one of the keys to live longer.
After analyzing an intelligence test that these people performed at age 11, the researchers discovered that those who scored higher also had a longer life. A series of subsequent studies, including one conducted at the University of Edinburgh, confirmed that smarter people have a 24% lower risk of dying prematurely and also tend to enjoy a better health.
People with a higher IQ have a lower propensity to die prematurely due to different conditions, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
How does intelligence influence our health?
There are different theories to explain the influence of intelligence on our health. One of them indicates that the most intelligent people tend to go further in their studies, which allows them to access better paid jobs that, in turn, provide them with better health care.
However, several studies that monitored socioeconomic variables suggest that this could be only a small part of the explanation. Psychologists at the University of Delaware are convinced that the key is that intelligence goes hand in hand with reasoning and problem solving skills, which would help us lead a healthier lifestyle that allows us to prevent the onset of diseases and facilitate therapeutic adherence.
In practice, intelligence would be a protective factor that helps us to:
• Better understand the risk factors for our health and identify our harmful behaviors.
• Develop strategies that allow us to implement healthier habits and avoid harmful environments.
• Pay more attention to the alarm signals sent by our body, to detect any possible health problem in time and find solutions.
• Keep active intellectually, which contributes to creating a “cognitive reserve” that delays the onset of diseases such as dementias.
• Assume a psychological distance from problems, to reduce their negative impact on our emotional and physical health.
Resuming, intelligence would help us make the best decisions for our health throughout life. It would allow us to discern what is good and bad for our health, helping us to detect risk factors and understand their negative impact, as well as to find the best solutions to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Calvin, C. M. et. Al. (2017) Childhood intelligence in relation to major causes of death in 68 year follow-up: prospective population study. BMJ; 357: j2708.
Calvin, C. M. et. Al. (2011) Intelligence in youth and all-cause-mortality: systematic review with meta-analysis. Int J Epidemiol; 40(3): 626-644.
Gottfredson, L. & Deary, I. J. (2004) Intelligence Predicts Health and Longevity, but Why? Current Directions in Psychological Science; 13(1):1-4.
Whalley, L. J. & Deary, I. J. (2001) Longitudinal cohort study of childhood IQ and survival up to age 76. BMJ; 322(7290): 819.