Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health Care and High IQs

There are alot of smart people in the world, and in general the intelligence quotient (IQ) of someone may determine how well he or she may perform in certain situations. In general, there is almost certainly a correlation between a high IQ score and being more intelligent according to However, if you have even average intelligence, you can find examples of cultural biases on many IQ tests. Furthermore, there are specific test-taking skills that have been proven to raise scores on many tests, including IQ tests. This last point makes perfect sense, doesn't it? If you know how to most efficiently "work" a test, you are likely to score higher, and even a cup of coffee may boost your score. The very fact that your score can vary from test to test shows that there are factors which can be manipulated to raise your score. While there is a general correlation between IQ score and intelligence, certainly it is an imperfect one.

According to, the term "IQ score" is widely used but poorly defined. There are a large number of tests with different scales. The result on one test of 132 can be the same as a score 148 on another test. Some intelligence tests don't use IQ scores at all. Mensa was founded in England in 1946 by Roland Berrill, a barrister, and Dr. Lance Ware, a scientist and lawyer. They had the idea of forming a society for bright people, the only qualification for membership of which was a high IQ. Today there are some 100,000 Mensans in 100 countries throughout the world. There are active Mensa organizations in over 40 countries on every continent except Antarctica. The word "Mensa" means "table" in Latin. Membership in Mensa is open to persons who have attained a score within the upper two percent of the general population on an approved intelligence test that has been properly administered and supervised. There is no other qualification or disqualification for membership eligibility. The society welcomes people from every walk of life whose IQ is in the top 2% of the population.

Is there evidence that people with higher intelligence have better lives or are happier? How do you scientifically measure "better life" in any case? Is there a negative correlation? Many with a high IQ have committed suicide, such as Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and Sylvia Plath, but this is just anecdotal. Various studies have shown that both people with both a high IQ and a low IQ are slightly more likely to commit suicide. Even if these studies prove true, this doesn't prove causation, but only correlation according to A recent study, reported in the journal Psychological Science, found that while IQ level did correlate with academic performance, there was a much stronger correlation with self discipline. Students with high self-discipline have much better grades than high-IQ students. They also found that there was no correlation between IQ and discipline. They are traits that vary independently. Studies in the 1980s found that the ability of young children to delay gratification was positively correlated with academic achievement a decade later. These studies involved offering children a cookie now while giving them the choice to forgo the cookie and instead have two cookies later, and the ability to delay gratification is obviously a component of self discipline.

According to, the world record for highest IQ is interesting because it may be that we will never know who really, truly has the highest IQ. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is Marilyn Vos Savant. In 1985, Guinness World Records accepted that she had answered every question correctly on an adult Stanford-Binet IQ test at the age of just 10, a result that gave her a corresponding mental age of 22 years and 11 months, and an unearthly IQ of 228. For many people, the story of Savant and “Ask Marilyn” are just two more pieces of evidence in a larger, decades-long argument about the accuracy and objectivity of intelligence testing. Even Guinness has succumbed. In 1990, two years after inducting Savant into its Hall of Fame, the publisher, in its parlance, “rested” its high IQ category altogether, saying it was no longer satisfied that intelligence tests were either uniform or reliable enough to produce a single record holder. Depending on how you look at it, Savant will either never be beaten, or was not worth beating in the first place. Also, there are those who dispute even these findings based on the type of testing done and whether any other historical figures, like Albert Einstein, would have beaten out Marilyn Vos Savant.

According to, knowing all this makes high IQs and the story of Marilyn vos Savant seem rather different. Has her IQ been a burden as much as a blessing? According to John Rust, at Cambridge, to produce an extraordinary IQ score a mind must have two unusual qualities. The first is “mechanical facility” – useful but sometimes harmful in extreme cases, hence the preponderance of people with Asperger’s syndrome who have high IQs. And you must also excel at a wide variety of tasks. Intelligence tests measure a range of mental abilities, whereas most people naturally, and happily, concentrate on just a few. Abnormally high IQ scores, by their nature, often speak of a brain too general to be of much use.

A study of one million Swedish men has revealed a strong link between cognitive ability and the risk of death, suggesting that government initiatives to increase education opportunities may also have health benefits, according to A lower IQ was strongly associated with a higher risk of death from causes such as accidents, coronary heart disease and suicide; the link between IQ and mortality could be partially attributed to the healthier behaviours displayed by those who score higher on IQ tests. People with higher IQ test scores tend to be less likely to smoke or drink alcohol heavily, they eat better diets, and they are more physically active. And, they appear to have a range of better behaviours that may partly explain their lower mortality risk. Preschool education programs and better nourishment can raise IQ scores according to other studies about intelligence.

In the US, according to, where more than nine million men underwent various forms of IQ and ability tests during the second world war, the enthusiasm for testing has been matched only by the ferocity of arguments over what exactly it proves. IQ tests for children, the SAT Reasoning Test for college applicants and psycho­metric testing by companies may have been designed with the goal of identifying individual talent, but often their larger consequence has been to highlight differences already inherent in society. Variations between the sexes and ethnic groups have led to toxic arguments about bias and inequality and power: who gets to define intelligence? Who designs the tests? In its various iterations, the debate about IQ testing in the US normally returns to the persistent, albeit shrinking, lag between results for white and black populations.

An interesting article by Bruce Charlton, Editor in Chief of the journal Medical Hypotheses and a university academic living in the UK, published this year in the Mensa magazine talks about the pros and cons of having a high IQ, although overall he feels having a high intelligence quotient is a good thing. His blog article is a fair assumption found at and has some valid points to be made about IQ and social skills, religion, and other facets of having a high IQ.

But according to, intelligence is a tool, but just one of the tools we have to shape our lives with. Like money or power or abilities, it is a benefit in the abstract. It only becomes beneficial in reality if applied in ways that better our lives. Raw computing capacity doesn't make a computer or a human effective if there aren't the other necessary components. Look at what people of average intelligence, like Henry Ford, have accomplished before you place too much emphasis on a high IQ.

Overall, the relationship between health care quality and high IQ may be relative to several factors including gender, race, financial status and a host of other unrelated variables. Does having a higher IQ provide anyone with better health or with more emotional stability? Studies appear to give an edge to those who are smarter as a generalized grouping, but not on any single or individual basis. So, is it better to be smarter? The obvious answer is YES. But is a high IQ going to provide you with unlimited perfect health for your entire life? Odds are you would lose that bet. No matter how your intelligence stacks up against the rest of the population, common sense goes a long way to provide you the ability to make wise choices when considering how to maintain personal health and medical needs. Use your brain wisely, regardless of your IQ.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

1 comment:

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