Does Intelligence In Youth Predict Health At Midlife?

Does Intelligence In Youth Predict Health At Midlife?

Psychology January 26, 2016 / By Dr. Jonathan Wai
Does Intelligence In Youth Predict Health At Midlife?

If you're intellectually gifted when young, are you more likely to be healthy when you're older?

Although it’s true being intellectually gifted can come with certain challenges, there are also many benefits associated with higher intelligence. For a full list, ranging from greater altruism, higher educational attainment, a higher income, increased depth and breadth of interests, greater social skills, and even faster talking speed, see here. To add to this list is the large body of work by psychologist Ian Deary and his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, showing that intelligence in youth predicts your health when you are older.

In a recent paper just published in the journal Intelligence titled “Intelligence in youth and health at age 50,” researchers Christina Wraw, Ian Deary, Catharine Gale, and Geoff Der examined 5,793 participants from the NLSY longitudinal database. They looked at how well intelligence in youth relates to a number of health outcomes at midlife—including physical health and functional limitation, diagnosed illnesses, self-reported conditions, and general health status—after accounting for numerous potential confounds.

Higher intelligence in youth was linked with better physical health at age 50 and a lower risk for many chronic health conditions. A higher IQ score was significantly associated with increased chances of having good to excellent health and numerous illness outcomes such as diabetes/high blood sugar and stroke were significantly negatively associated with IQ.

The authors conclude:

“The findings of the current study show that there is an association between IQ and multiple health outcomes at age 50. It suggested that adult SES substantially mediates the effect of IQ for a number of health outcomes, though the interpretation of that is not clear. Future research could examine more closely the relationship between IQ and high blood-pressure/hypertension and the mediating role played by income in the relationship between IQ and health. The current findings contribute to our understanding of the risk factors of poor health and health inequalities. Hence, it can be used to inform health and social policies that aim to reduce the burden of illness for the individual, society, and economy.”

If you’re gifted when young, you’re more likely to be healthy when older.

© 2016 by Jonathan Wai. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

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