Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Surprise: IQ and health strongly related

Being smart is good for your health.

That's a sensible assertion given the relationship in people between greater intelligence and long-term orientation. Impulsivity drives a person to engage in activities with transitory benefits but costly and lasting price tags (cigarette smoking, drug use, junkfood consumption, lack of exercise, etc). The urban hip-hop culture epitomizes this relationship. Conversely, smarter people are more capable of denying themselves these sorts of indulgences to avoid the heavy toll they take on one's health. They are also less likely to fall for risible myths, such as the incorrect belief that AIDS carriers can eradicate their disease by having intercourse with virgins. And they are more likely to seek legitimate medical attention when something does go wrong.

It's not just a rational assertion, it's also an empirical one. The United Health Foundation has released it's annual report entitled America's Health Rankings. The organization rates the fifty states using a variety of criteria including obesity, smoking, medical insurance, infant mortality, mental health rates. Not surprisingly, Minnesota comes out on top and Louisiana rounds out the bottom (view the full rankings here). Despite the wide demographic variation within states, the correlation between estimated IQ and the UHF's health scores is .70, meaning that about half of a state's health is 'explained' by the NAEP scores of its eighth graders.

In actuality, the relationship is probably even stronger than that, as IQ estimates are more indicative of the future (the intelligence of adolescents is being used to ascertain the smarts rest of the entire population) while health scores are firmly anchored in the present. Consequently, states undergoing dysgenic demographic makeovers do better in the health rankings than they do in the IQ rankings (Nationally, California is 23rd in health, 46th in IQ; Arizona is 34th in health, 43rd in IQ; New Mexico is 40th and 47th). Removing the border states from the computation tightens the correlation to .72.

In addition to walking hand-in-hand with healthiness, higher IQ is also related to economic parity (as measured by the gini coefficient). By state, the two correlate at a moderate but statistically significant .30. Incidentally, these two factors (health and relative wealth) have been found to be the two strongest determinants of a person's self-described happiness.

VCU's sagacious Professor McDaniel is right in urging states (and by extension any other organizing body) to institute policies to enhance their collective IQs. Doing so would go a long way in relieving a host of social ills (class warfare, crime, infant mortality, poverty, etc).

Randall Parker put it perfectly when he wrote:
Anything that could raise average IQ a few points would do more to boost economic growth and lower social pathologies than increased educational spending or the other typical liberal or free market libertarian nostrums.
Ending largescale underclass immigration from third-world countries, instituting a merit immigration system, and distributing dietary supplements to impoverished children and pregnant mothers are all relatively painless ways of realizing those goals.


JSBolton said...

It could be that jursidictions are even more strongly health/IQ correlated if you used figures from 40 years ago.
Half of health expenditures are on over-65's. Their health problems are real.
When I see
reports and maps of offshore deepwater oil drilling and production, that IQ correlation springs to mind.
Resources are randomly distributed in the world, but investment in high-cost extraction methods is at least as skewed as national average IQ's.
Low-cost extraction methods do not receive investment in places like Africa.
Considering that, if random deviations in natural resource abundance accounted for ~10% of the variation in per cpaita output between nations, and the extremes of politics for less than 20%, that still leaves a huge causal role for IQ.

JSBolton said...

Irresponsible public commentators keep telling us that we can lower average age with immigration regardless of the quality of population, even though immigrants are no younger than the average.
This will affect health burdens, they say, even though lower quality of population means a greater health care burden.
The only way mass immigration of such low quality as could affect the average age, would cost us less medically, would be if their presence caused a major downgrade of the standard of care for everyone.
Indeed, impulsivity and high preference for immediate reward, over against the planful mentality associated with higher intelligence, are what we ought to expect to be more prevalent as points of IQ go down.
The 'epidemic' of youth diabetes and obesity has its unspeakable
side; that of its association with the growth of low-IQ minority population via immigration.
The 'epidemic' of asthma is unspeakably, largely the register of the
swarming of the Latino immigration onto our welfare society.

JSBolton said...

Oh the dastardly unfairness of it all, someone is sure to say.
Will our scholars, dedicated to the expansion of knowledge, no matter how much it may sometimes hurt the pious, now tell us whether this result below is highly correlated with national average IQ, or more likely not?

new country data:
"posted by Dienekes on Tuesday, December 05, 2006

From the EurekAlert public release:

The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth according to a path-breaking study released today by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER)."

crush41 said...

"Indeed, impulsivity and high preference for immediate reward, over against the planful mentality associated with higher intelligence, are what we ought to expect to be more prevalent as points of IQ go down."

A vicious circle indeed.

s said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
s said...

The rich are not smarter than the poor as you imply in your article.In fact IQ can be greatly affected by poverty and lack of early learning opportunities.The economic and learning environments of the home are the most powerful predictors of IQ. A a large majority of the wealthy in the world are simply heirs of large fortunes .