Intelligent children live longer: results of a 68-year study of 65,765 children

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Roughly ten items make up the list of leading causes of death in adult populations. A sizeable portion of medical research is targeted at establishing risk factors for them and using this knowledge to institute educational and public health measures for reducing their likelihood. Smoking, obesity, alcohol abuse, and sedentary life styles are some commonly cited risk factors. We now have a study that looked at intelligence in 11 year olds, as assessed by a standardised test, and correlated it over the long term cause of death. It appears that the more intelligent the child, the less the risk of dying from these common causes.

A prospective cohort study was carried out on a whole population of participants born in Scotland in 1936 and linked to mortality data across 68 years of follow-up. On 4 June 1947, about 94% of the Scottish population born in 1936 who were registered as attending school in Scotland (75,252) completed a test of general intelligence in the SMS1947 (70,805). 33,536 men and 32,229 women who were participants could be linked to cause of death data up to December 2015.

Higher scores on the childhood intelligence test were associated with lower risk of death ascribed to coronary heart disease (heart attacks) and stroke, cancers related to smoking (particularly lung and stomach), respiratory diseases, digestive diseases, injury, and dementia.

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You don’t have to have anything more that a rudimentary knowledge of interpreting x-y graphs to grasp the results of this study. The x-axis plots intelligence on the test conducted in 1947; the scores increase from left to right and grouped in tens. The y-axis shows the risk of dying from common causes. There appears to be an unequivocal link between intelligence and risk of dying.

The study opens up a slew of questions, not the least of which is the determinants of childhood intelligence.

Reference: Childhood intelligence in relation to major causes of death in 68 year follow-up: prospective population study

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