Why Do Smart People Live Longer?

People with higher intelligence test scores in childhood and early adulthood tend to live longer. There are several explanations for this, and once we know what intelligent people have and do that enables them to live longer, we will be able to share and apply that knowledge with the aim of achieving optimal health for all.

EDINBURGH – People with higher intelligence test scores in childhood and early adulthood tend to live longer. This result has been found among people from Australia, Denmark, England and Wales, Scotland, Sweden, and the United States. In fact, it has been found within every population that has been studied.

Indeed, the impact of intelligence on mortality rivals well-known risk factors for illness and death, such as high blood pressure, being overweight, high blood glucose, and high cholesterol. Its effect is almost as important as that of smoking.

Differences in human intelligence have environmental and genetic causes. An intelligence test score in early life is partly a record of what the environment has wrought on the brain and the rest of the body up to that time. Babies who have lower birth weights, for example, are more prone to chronic illnesses later in life. They also have, on average, slightly lower intelligence. But tests of whether birth weight might explain some of the link between intelligence and mortality have found no connection.

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