While good parenting obviously matters quite a lot to a child's wellbeing, it turns out that some kids may have a natural advantage over others when it comes to longevity. Scientists now know that kids with one specific trait might live longer. The trait in question? Higher intelligence. In fact, a recent study — the most comprehensive scientific look at the link between IQ and longevity — found that people who had higher IQs as kids had better health outcomes in the ensuing decades in general.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal BMJ, followed about 65,000 men and women born in Scotland in 1936 until they were 79 years old, or until they would have been if they had lived long enough. And what they found was both striking and definitive: Those whose standardized intelligence test results suggested they were smarter as 11-year-olds were less likely to have been affected by an array of illnesses, including coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, external causes, respiratory disease, digestive related diseases, and dementia.
Somewhat surprisingly, this was still true even after the researchers controlled for socioeconomic factors as well as behavioral ones, such as smoking, according to Newsweek.
According to the study, a person with a childhood IQ score of 115, for example, is 28 percent less likely than a peer who tested in at an IQ of 100 to have died by the age of 76, the outlet reported. And the discrepancies didn't stop there: According to health and medical news outlet Stat, the people involved in the study whose scores suggested that they were among the smartest 10 percent were 50 percent less likely to have died of heart disease, stroke, smoking-related cancers, digestive diseases, and outside causes such as injury than those in the bottom 10 percent.
This led to a fascinating realization, as University of Edinburgh psychologist Ian Deary, who was also the senior author of the paper, explained:
The increased risk of dying earlier from many different causes is not just about low versus high IQ scores. The slight benefit to longevity from higher intelligence seems to increase all the way up the intelligence scale, so that very smart people live longer than smart people, who live longer than averagely intelligent people, and so on.
But exactly why this is remains unclear. Some researchers hypothesize that more intelligent people are more likely to make healthier lifestyle choices such as exercising and taking a more active approach to accessing health care. It's also possible that less intelligent people are more likely to have jobs — like in factories or mines, for example — that can be detrimental to their health. In the future, according to the Pacific Standard, studies that emphasize lifestyle may provide more answers.
In the meantime, Deary told The Daily Mail that there's a literal life hack we can all use to live longer: "Find out what smart people do and copy them." How hard could that be?