This really will annoy some people

Greater intelligence may in part partially explain why people from a high socio-economic background live longer than those of lower social status, researchers have suggested.

And yes, they are indeed saying that higher intelligence is likely to lead to higher socio-economic status.

No, not all of the difference, but 25% or so of the difference in lifespans between different socio economic groups appears to come from the fact that higher intelligence leads both to being in a higher socio-economic group and also to living longer.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, of University College, London, who leads the Whitehall II study of civil servants, which has uncovered many of the effects of social class on mortality, and his colleague Mika Kivimaki, offered three possible explanations for the effect in a commentary for the journal.

“Intelligence might lead to greater knowledge about how to pursue healthy behaviours,” he wrote. Intelligence may “cause” socio-economic position; that is, more intelligence leads to more education, and greater income and occupational prestige. “Intelligence may be a marker for something else, and it is that something else, early life exposures, for example, that leads to mortality,” Dr Batty said.

Puts those Whitehall studies, which are the gold standard of this sort of research, into something of a new light, eh?

Bright people rise to the top of the civil service: bright people live longer. Thus people at the top of the civil service live longer than those not at the top.

It\’s not all about social oppression of the lower orders you know.

10 thoughts on “This really will annoy some people”

  1. Or, there is the explanation which persons of higher IQ will immediately consider likely- that is, that this study is pseudo-scientific bullshit by people who would be better employed doing something productive instead of churning out poppycock.

  2. “Intelligence might lead to greater knowledge about how to pursue healthy behaviours”

    I’d give more credence to higher intelligence being more likely to correlate with greater prospensity to deferred gratification.

    You have to be really quite stupid not to know how “to pursue healthy behaviours”. The question is whether you can arsed.

  3. Yes and No


    Research done on those born in 1958 shows the largest factor determining someone’s class destination is IQ accounting for half the explained variance in class variance . The amount of work is the next largest factor . The combined effects of class privilege or disadvantage are 17 % of the explained variance ( This from Professor Emeritus Peter Saunders but the research is well known.) If you look a the matter multi generationally the compounding of non class effects are overwhelmingly predominant .
    The fact is then that a clever hard working boy despite Labour`s efforts to stop him , has a very good chance of changing his class . His children will suffer virtually no significant barrier if the characteristic are inherited .( Labour again wished to stop this movement by loading up inheritance tax and have not understood why it was so hated ).

    …and No….

    As a man who despite numerous advantages has achieved almost nothing I find this somewhat uncomfortable .Personally I massage my bruised ego by reminding myself that the possibilities of objectively measuring IQ between classes ,or indeed establishing what class background someone comes from, are small.
    Is it really true that the people of Surrey are vastly cleverer than the people of Wales . I doubt it . Is it true that in parts of Glagow men are some 50% stupider than in the average golf club…

    Doubt it Timmy , old fruit , doubt it .

  4. if someone is still living in Wales after the age of 18, that kind of demonstrates that they’re not too bright, doesn’t it?

  5. Perfectly plausible, but I suspect that the word “explain” is used in the statisticians’ sense, which I tend to think is a bit of a fraud when tossed into writing for the layman.

    Maybe it comes down to nothing deeper than IQ being one, of many possible, signs of your biology being in good nick whereas early death correlates with your biology being in bad nick. Mind you, that won’t appeal to all those asses who attribute their success exclusively to their own moral virtue rather than, in part, the luck of the draw.

  6. Exactly, dearieme. This seems to be falling into the old nature-vs-nurture trap, whereas it is becoming ever clearer that attempting to disentangle the two is not merely difficult but intrinsically impossible. Any ‘study’ that purports to show a single factor for any trait or behaviour is suspect.

  7. I wonder to what extent intelligence correlates with parental nurturing during childhood? Children who are well cared for during their early years must be more likely to develop their language and cognitive skills, than neglected kids who spend all day behind the bars of their pen with no interaction at all. (Some of our five year olds start school unable to talk.)

    But I would also expect the committed parents to be more likely to see their offspring are well fed, well immunised, and less exposed to carcinogens, junk food, stuff like that. Wouldn’t you expect well nurtured children to grow into sturdier adults? Not only that, more mature and confident adults?

  8. “I wonder to what extent intelligence correlates with parental nurturing during childhood?”

    Almost to no extent whatever. I don’t have the precise figure to hand, but the association is very weak. A good parental background might well have all sorts of salubrious effects in other areas, but as for how smart you are, barely a whit.

  9. Doesn’t being a good joiner ( school sports teams, masonics, etc) help the ambitious lad?
    Otherwise why are so many near the top so thick?

  10. Monty:

    What David Gillies has expressed has been demonstrated in a number of studies involving adoption of very young children into extremely supportive homes with excellent environments. In the overwhelming number of cases, tested IQ tended toward close approximation to the mean of suggested by their inheritance.

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