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Is there any correlation possible between intelligence and longevity of an individual?

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Nitish Dec 09, 2020
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Carl Zimmer, a renowned science journalist, and best selling author of 'She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity' , mentioned some interesting points regarding longevity and intelligence. In his book, Zimmer discussed the hereditability of some characteristics like height and intelligence. But does intelligence have any correlation with the longevity of an individual? If it does, is this effect inheritable?
As Zimmer discussed in the book; higher IQ values could substantially reduce the probability to suffer several diseases. As an example, a study conducted on around 2000 people reported that people who scored higher in IQ tests tended to live longer as compared to those who had either mediocre or low scores. Differential patterns were also evaluated in the book for men and women. It makes sense that intelligent people might have an better understanding of their health and how to manage their lifestyle to live longer. But can we consider this to be based on genetics or the environment?

[1]'She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity', Carl Zimmer, Published May 29th 2018 by Dutton

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What we are missing out big time when we talk about ‘intelligence’ and its influence in life

Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Feb 21, 2021
The conventional school of thought in psychology for decades (or almost a century now) has emphasized heavily IQ as a measure of intelligence. While IQ has been the default gauge for measuring working intellect across a variety of populations worldwide (maybe due to the fact that no better approach was introduced), its authenticity as an absolute indicator of intelligence has been heavily criticized. What makes IQ inadequate?

Though IQ tests measure the degree of cognitive function with considerable predictive accuracy in academic and work success, they are incomplete and they fall short of the full gamut of skills that would be considered as the components of ‘good thinking’. IQ tests are effective at assessing our deliberative skills - involving reason and the usage of working memory- but they are unable to assess our propensity to use them in a contextual manner. Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize winning economist and behavioural psychologist has also emphasized in this distinction: intellectual ability does not necessarily mean analytical thinking, rather it could be said that people with higher intellect ( suggested by IQ scores) are more prone to rely in their intuitions, making it more likely for them to take decisions that are not so wise. Having a higher IQ is analogous to possessing a larger knife to cut through the bushes- it doesn’t guarantee that one has the skills and capacity to use it perfectly to make his way out of the jungle. In other words, people with higher IQ are the ones with the brightest searchlight in a dark night; but it doesn’t guarantee that they will point their searchlight in the right direction. A higher wattage light in itself is not a protection against the darkness, the ability to use the light in a proper manner is. IQ tells us about the brightness and nothing about the person’s capacity to point the light in the right manner.

Thanks to the Harvard raised Psychologist and the best-selling author of the book Emotional Intelligence, the asymmetry in psychometric implications surrounding human intelligence have now opened a new line of thinking. I recently finished reading the book and I was absolutely stunned by how we tend to miss out the obvious cues that establish that being intelligent is not just about solving math puzzles and spatial riddles, it has to do more with how we handle our emotions. I want to build this contribution around Goleman’s central thesis of the book, along with other recent research that establishes emotional intelligence as the dark horse of our psycho-physical well being.
Put formally, "Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth. "

So what makes a person emotionally intelligent? The answer is not a simple one. Instead, there are five categorically distinct domains with intricate interplay that determine a person’s emotional intelligence. Those are: 1.Self-Awareness
How much is a person either engulfed by the whims of his/her emotions; whether he/she can come out of the position of being ‘caught up in feelings’ and observe their own emotions and analyze them ?

2.Managing Emotions
Whether a person is helplessly passionate,, giving in to the emotional urges or he/she can manage the emotions that rise in his psyche? How likely is the person to lose control of rational thought process when subjected to an anxious scenario?

3.Motivating Oneself
How much a person is able to push his/her own boundaries through everyday life and not be distracted from his/her overarching goals in life? Can the person delay gratification for a greater cause? How much emotional discipline can the person afford? How much hope and optimism can he/she reinforce?

4.Recognizing Emotions in Others
The degree of empathy the person harbors: how much is the person willing to help those in need (or in any lower position than him/herself); how much is the person able to understand the non-verbal cues of distress/fear/anxiety/suffering in others?

5.Handling Relationships
Interpersonal skills: how likely is the person to handle both the positive and negative aspects across relationships? How likely is s/he to end up losing trust? How meaningful are his/her social interactions?

All of the five factors, combined together, make up the emotional sphere of a person’s life and determine his/her well being. Even if a seemingly intelligent person with a high IQ topples badly in any of these five domains of emotional realm, s/he will eventually fail at making the proper use of his/her cognitive prowess. In fact there is a significant body of evidence from the psychological research that emotional intelligence indeed influences physical and mental health- which can be inferred to be one of the significant determinants of longevity and life satisfaction .

How emotional intelligence influences physical and mental health and eventually becomes a significant determinant of longevity:

In a meta-analysis dated back to 2010 that tried to find the relation between EI and health, there was a strong indication that EI correlates positively to the health and well being in the analyzed subjects. There have been subsequent studies, and they have pointed that EI can be now taken as a plausible indicator of health . In another study that examined how EI components affected the longevity and health in experts involved in education, a very strong association was observed. It was suggested that EI could be enhanced and hence a drastic change in overall health and life satisfaction can be attained through sustained practice, guidance and training.

The relationship (which seems obvious in retrospect) can be considered, for example, from the following aspects EI and health-related behaviours
Emotionally intelligent people are more likely to regulate their behaviours towards a more healthy lifestyle. Exercising, diet patterns, concern over own health: these are the things that matter for a healthy and long life; people with higher EI tend to cultivate habits and behaviours that have positive outcomes. People with stronger EI are better at restraint and are more likely to refrain from unhealthy behaviours for eg smoking, drinking, substance use.

EI and stress
Being emotionally intelligent means being more resilient, mindful and more apt at handling stress and anxiety. When we are better equipped to fight the stress, we are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety; which unequivocally is a strong indicator of a person’s overall health.

EI, social well being and health At the end of the day, we are social animals. There is already a well-established consensus that the kind of social interactions we have directly affect our mental and physical health. Given that people with better EI have better social and interpersonal skills, the benefits.

More and more research data is being accumulated on EI, aimed at developing better universal metrics to make it more accessible across the world. In the future, we can expect to have standardized tests that can effectively measure EI. It is hence very important to take EI more seriously and shift the convention towards a more holistic approach that incorporates both cognitive and emotional intellect.


[2]Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. J. Sluyter (Eds.), Emotional development and emotional intelligence: Educational implications (p. 3–34). Basic Books.

[3]Fernández-Abascal EG and Martín-Díaz MD (2015) Dimensions of emotional intelligence related to physical and mental health and to health behaviors. Front. Psychol. 6:317. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00317

[4]Alexandra Martins, Nelson Ramalho, Estelle Morin, A comprehensive meta-analysis of the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and health, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 49, Issue 6, 2010, Pages 554-564, ISSN 0191-8869, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.05.029.


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There is a link between IQ and longevity: partly genetic, partly IQ-facilitated

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Feb 01, 2021
In 1932, the Scottish government took an IQ test of almost all 11-year old children. After sixty-five years, two researchers checked how many of those were still alive, at age 76. They found out that there was a 15-point IQ advantage that led to a 21% greater probability of survival. For example, a person with an IQ of 115 was 21% more likely to be alive at age 76 than a person with an IQ of 100 (100 is the average IQ for the general population).

In another study, it was found that 25-year mortality was 17% higher for each standard deviation reduction in childhood IQ. Adjustment for social class and deprivation category reduced the risk to 12%, which suggests that economic status may not be a strong contributor. In another study, the researchers identified three twin studies, in which both IQ and mortality were recorded. In twin studies, the effects of environmental (childhood environment) and genetic factors on the outcome are nullified. The researchers found a strong contribution of genetic factors to the IQ-longevity relationship.

Explanations for the above results:
  1. One possible explanation is that a higher IQ contributes to healthier behavior such as exercising and taking proper care of oneself like wearing a seatbelt. Also, in the Scottish data, people with higher IQ were more likely to quit smoking.
  2. Alternatively, it could be that the genetic factors that contribute to variation in both IQ also contribute to likeliness of engagement in these healthy behaviors.
  3. Another reason might be that IQ is an index of the efficiency of the nervous system. In support of this hypothesis, researchers looked at the relationships among IQ, mortality, and performance on a reaction time test and found that the reaction time explained the relationship between IQ and mortality.

However, IQ testing, too, is laden with controversies. For example, evidence suggests that even a person’s belief about their ability to do well on the IQ test can impact the person's IQ score.

Conclusion: There exists a relation between IQ and longevity and it is partly genetic. However, the involvement of other factors that are facilitated by the IQ (healthier behaviors), cannot be disregarded.

[1]Whalley LJ, Deary IJ. Longitudinal cohort study of childhood IQ and survival up to age 76. BMJ. 2001;322(7290):819. doi:10.1136/bmj.322.7290.819

[2]Hart CL, Taylor MD, Davey Smith G, Whalley LJ, Starr JM, Hole DJ, Wilson V, Deary IJ. Childhood IQ, social class, deprivation, and their relationships with mortality and morbidity risk in later life: prospective observational study linking the Scottish Mental Survey 1932 and the Midspan studies. Psychosom Med. 2003 Sep-Oct;65(5):877-83. doi: 10.1097/01.psy.0000088584.82822.86. PMID: 14508035.

[3]Rosalind Arden, Michelle Luciano, Ian J Deary, Chandra A Reynolds, Nancy L Pedersen, Brenda L Plassman, Matt McGue, Kaare Christensen, Peter M Visscher, The association between intelligence and lifespan is mostly genetic, International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 45, Issue 1, February 2016, Pages 178–185, https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyv112

[4]Deary IJ, Der G. Reaction Time Explains IQ’s Association with Death. Psychological Science. 2005;16(1):64-69. doi:10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.00781.x


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Nitish9 months ago
Interesting! Thank you for sharing this information sir ☺️
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