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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Clever people 'live longer'
Elderly people
People with higher IQs are more likely to live to old age
Scientists have discovered that there may be some truth in the old cliché about being old and wise.

They have found that that children with higher IQs are more likely to live longer.

Nobody is sure why more intelligent people are likely to live longer.


Our data show that high mental ability in late childhood reduces the chances of death up to age 76

Professor Lawrence Whalley, University of Edinburgh
However, it is thought that factors such as childhood diet and economic status probably play a role.

Scientists studied IQ tests taken by 2,792 11-year-old children living in Aberdeen in 1932.

They then followed up to see who was still alive in 1997.

It was found that both men and women with higher IQ scores as children were much more likely to be alive 60 years later.

The researchers took an average IQ in the group as 100.

Those still living at the age of 76 had an average IQ score of 102 at the age of 11, while those who had died by 1997 had an average score of 97.7.

A 15-point lower score meant people had a fifth less chance of seeing their 76th birthday, while those with a 30-point disadvantage were 37% less likely than those with a higher IQ to live that long.

World War II

The link was weaker in men, but this could be because World War II had increased the male death rate.

The researchers found that men who had died during active service in the war had had a relatively high IQ.

Study author Professor Lawrence Whalley, of the University of Edinburgh, said: "Our data show that high mental ability in late childhood reduces the chances of death up to age 76.

"The effect is not caused by a single factor and may even be reversed, as was found for men during World War II.

"This result adds to our knowledge of the traits in youth that contribute to survival in subsequent decades."

He called for more research into the issue, addressing the links between social deprivation, mental ability and lifespans.

Dr Colin Cooper, a psychologist from Queen's University, Belfast, told BBC News Online that research suggested that more intelligent people were more likely to plan for the longer term than those with lower IQs - who were more likely to be tempted by insubstantial short-term gain.

He said: "It is also possible that people with higher IQs are more likely to take on board health education messages."

Work in Dr Cooper's laboratory also suggests that people with higher IQs have sharper reflexes.

It is thought that IQ is largely inherited. Environmental influences are also thought to play a role, but the influence of the family wanes rapidly past the age of seven or eight.

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

See also:

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