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Medicine Science

Intelligent People More At Risk of Mental Illness, Study Finds (independent.co.uk) 276

schwit1 shares a report from The Independent: The stereotype of a tortured genius may have a basis in reality after a new study found that people with higher IQs are more at risk of developing mental illness. A team of U.S. researchers surveyed 3,715 members of American Mensa with an IQ higher than 130. An "average IQ score" or "normal IQ score" can be defined as a score between 85 and 115. The team asked the Mensa members to report whether they had been diagnoses with mental illnesses, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They were also asked to report mood and anxiety disorders, or whether the suspected they suffered from any mental illnesses that had yet to be diagnosed, as well as physiological diseases, like food allergies and asthma. After comparing this with the statistical national average for each illness they found that those in the Mensa community had considerably higher rates of varying disorders. While 10 per cent of the general population were diagnosed with anxiety disorder, that rose to 20 percent among the Mensa community, according to the study which published in the Science Direct journal.
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Intelligent People More At Risk of Mental Illness, Study Finds

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  • by irrational_design ( 1895848 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @07:06PM (#55393383)

    No wonder people keep saying I'm crazy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Popular people are just more stupid. Popularity tends to do that. Being anti-popular tends to make you a book worm / computer nerd. Popular = busy with humans. Anti-popular = busy with knowledge.

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        You're also getting a bit mixed up with the introvert/extrovert scale; extroverts are generally happier, introverts are generally more thoughtful -- although that's not the same as "intelligent"; it's somewhat orthogonal although both thoughtfulness and intelligence contribute to mental performance.

      • by Sique ( 173459 )
        Tell that to Wolfgang Pauli, who thrived when being with other people (and interestingly was in school the same class with another Nobel laureate, Richard Kuhn), liked to go to pubs and was for some time married to a dancer.
      • Not really. If you are not popular you could use your excasism time doing non intellectual things as well. Playing video games watching movies or TV. While the popular person may choose to befriend people of good influence and learn a lot from them. As well being popular they feel less need to escape from reality and use their free time to focus on intellectual things.

        In general smart people have problems dealing with most people because it is hard to find people who will talk at their level.

    • C!=C (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @07:29PM (#55393495)

      Correlation is not causation. An obvious explanation is that intelligent people have higher incomes, and can afford to better medical care, which leads to more mental health diagnoses.

      • Re:C!=C (Score:5, Insightful)

        by narcc ( 412956 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @08:26PM (#55393777) Journal

        They sampled MENSA members. I'm surprised the rate of mental illness wasn't 100%.

        You'd need to be crazy, or deeply insecure, to join a group like that.

        • Re:C!=C (Score:5, Insightful)

          by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @08:34PM (#55393829)

          Bright people might realize they have problems. Self-identification is part of the cure, not the problem.

          • Re:C!=C (Score:5, Insightful)

            by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday October 19, 2017 @06:03AM (#55395199) Homepage

            Also, bright people might realize that the world has problems.

            There's not an objective measure of "mental illness", and determining whether you're suffering from mental illness has a lot to do with how well you fit into your role in society. A big part of the definition of mental illness is that it has to cause distress. When a person looks around at this world and their place in it, they should be distressed. If you're not suffering in some way that could be labelled "mental illness", there's probably wrong with you.

            • Re: C!=C (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Also, bright people might realize that the world has problems ...the world and themselves.

              Iâ(TM)ll pick one aspect to focus on that I think helps highlight my pointâ"

              I could list a dozen coworkers who drive newer cars and take regular vacations, yet have no savings or retirement.

              They operate thinking only about today, or the next few weeks/months.

              They also often refuse to take simple actions to correct issues in their lives, and without fail will lay blame on some external influence when things do

              • Lack of impulse control doesn't necessary mean lack of intelligence. There have been a host of genius never-do-wells over the centuries.
              • They're not deficient in intelligence. They're deficient in wisdom. That's the stat right below INT, and is rolled separately.

          • Bright people might realize they have problems. Self-identification is part of the cure, not the problem.

            Everyone else just has Cybercondria [wikipedia.org]

        • Re:C!=C (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @08:45PM (#55393887)

          Mensa is not an acronym, and should not be spelled with all caps.

          At their annual conferences, the one surefire way to pack a presentation to standing room only is to have the subject be anything to do with autism.

        • ...or after cheaper car insurance. maybe? Yep, that's right, you get 10% discounts at a number of places because you're in Mensa.

        • Agreed. I was invited when I was young, read the materials and quickly surmised they're a blowhard organization for fake smart people. Pass.
        • by jandjmh ( 66714 )

          Since I don't have any upvotes, I'll just chime in here to agree.

      • Good point, but there's a pretty strong evolutionary argument I think. Why wouldn't everyone be smart if there wasn't a cost? Its hard to imagine high IQ not helping with survival.

        • by redelm ( 54142 )
          But that is exactly the point -- there must be biological downsides (side-effects) to intelligence, otherwise the whole species would have been naturally-selected towards a higher IQ millenia ago. Instead, we just have a ~recent (100yr) Flynn effect around +1 IQpt/decade. Of course the IQ scale is rebased, but that is the shift.
        • Perhaps intelligence is genetically delicate, and evolution hasn't gotten it quite right yet?

  • by JOstrow ( 730908 ) <jostrow@x13designs.com> on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @07:15PM (#55393419) Homepage

    "However, the study pointed out that a high IQ was not the cause of mental illness, but it could be correlated with the highly intelligent community."

    Or a high IQ could be correlated with better jobs and better health benefits, therefore leading to more diagnoses of mental illness.

    Or mental health professionals could have more difficulty identifying mental illnesses in those with lower IQ.

    Or.

    Or.

    Where are the controls? I realize that relying on subject-reported data in studies is necessary in some cases, but I believe they could've done better than this.

    • I realize that relying on subject-reported data in studies is necessary in some cases, but I believe they could've done better than this.

      Maybe they could have "done better", but they probably couldn't with the budget they had. The usual point of cheaper-and-lower-quality studies like this is to show why spending more money might be worthwhile.

      BTW, since we're throwing out random theories: Mensa, as an organisation, is more attractive to people with a predisposition to mental illness. Highly intelligent people who are well-adjusted are less likely to join.

  • easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @07:16PM (#55393421)
    This is easy, lots of people are too stupid to realise they have problems.
    Doesn't mean they don't have problems. Smarter people are better at diagnosis.
    • That's a bingo! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by denzacar ( 181829 )

      Members of MENSA more likely to have access to health care, including psychiatric kind.
      Film at... umm... whenever. Just stream the goddamn thing.

  • People with mental illness more likely to be intelligent?

    • What percentage of people eligible to join MENSA actually do join MENSA?
      • Apparently a higher than average percentage of people with mental illness.

      • I'm guessing the percentage is extremely small. I have no evidence, but anecdotally, I've known a large number of high IQ people over the decades, and have yet to meet an actual a Mensa member in person (at least none that were willing to volunteer that information).

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @07:27PM (#55393487)

    I envy those people I know who are capable of insanity and irrationality.

    So far my brain just won't break.

    But alzheimers or dementia are probably in my late 70s.

    It's a problem because the rational person sees a lot of the bad in the world and can't really alleviate their own suffering other than by taking mind altering substances or temporarily distracting activities.

    • I envy those people I know who are capable of insanity and irrationality.

      That's crazy.

    • I envy those people I know who are capable of insanity and irrationality.

      So far my brain just won't break.

      But alzheimers or dementia are probably in my late 70s.

      It's a problem because the rational person sees a lot of the bad in the world and can't really alleviate their own suffering other than by taking mind altering substances or temporarily distracting activities.

      I know! I keep driving past the local mental institution and thinking to myself, "man, THOSE people have the life!" I mean, I really wish I could have my own free dormitory where I never had to have any of life's responsibilities. Sure, there are violent outbursts from other patients, harsh discipline, and crippling suicidal depression to contend with, but free room and board and no responsibilities balances that out.

      Oh wait, you mean you wish you were sociopathic? God, you're a weirdo.

  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @07:29PM (#55393497) Homepage
    Maybe people with mental disorders are more likely to join Mensa.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @07:32PM (#55393517)

    It seems like a flawed study in a number of ways, but it is nonetheless a believable situation.

    I know a few people, co-workers and friends, who I consider brilliant. To a person they are more bothered by the disparity between how the world could be if people made better choices, and how it actually is. It is difficult for them to see a society which does not value education and understanding, where a pop celeb is held in high esteem by millions and listened to when they spout pseudoscientific babble, while scientists with real expertise are ignored.

    I think the smarter you are, the more you end up disappointed by the human animal. They hide it, but it shows.

    • I think the smarter you are, the more you end up disappointed by the human animal. They hide it, but it shows.

      This is so wrong I hardly know where to begin.

      And damn fool can solve the world's problems with a generous application of "if everyone would just ...".

      For those who lack imagination and drive the continuation is inevitably "behave the same way that I behave." (With drive, the continuation becomes "drink this special Kool-Aid.")

      I concede that grotesque distortion of the problem domain displays a cer

  • by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @07:43PM (#55393555)

    I know, I know -- I read it. I'm sorry.

    Their research was based on model that suggests intelligent people with "hyper brains" are more reactive to environmental stimulus and that “may predispose them to certain psychological disorders as well as physiological conditions involving elevated sensory and altered immune and inflammatory responses".

    Their study seemed to confirm this, as it suggested that because of their increased awareness levels, those with higher IQs react more to their environment. This creates a hyper brain/hyper body scenario, where they display a hyperactive central nervous system.

    So highly intelligent people focus more on the shit going on around them and melt down over it. The more oblivious percentiles brush it off (if they even noticed it at all) and move on with their lives. That seems about right.

    • by JOstrow ( 730908 )

      I'm being pedantic, but if you notice everybody else complaining about the lack of controls (including myself), then you'll excuse some pedantry.

      Your post is mistitled because it is not a "plausible explanation in TFA." They created a model, then tried to validate it with research. That fact that it "seems about right" to you isn't enough because it obviously "seemed about right" to them also. That's why they decided to conduct research to try to validate it.

      Our collective problem is with the *research*

      • They created a model, then tried to validate it with research.

        I confess that made me chuckle. Sure glad we're not currently trying to change the entire global economy over anything like that.

    • by Whibla ( 210729 ) on Thursday October 19, 2017 @05:07AM (#55395051)

      I know, I know -- I read it. I'm sorry.

      So highly intelligent people focus more on the shit going on around them and melt down over it.

      I'd say this might be somewhat of a misrepresentation of the situation. It's not about focusing on shit, any more than spotting a tiger lurking in the shadows, triggering your fight or flight response, is about focus. Your actual focus is elsewhere when the particular brain module triggers. Since, as with many of our brain's hair trigger modules, there's a significant false positive rate (faces in clouds / crackers) your endocrine system, in working overtime, leads to side effects such as neural fatigue, inflammation, and so on.

      A reasonable working hypothesis might be that some of these brain modules are also useful for things for which they didn't evolve, such as the pattern matching module helping with the visual aspect of the IQ tests, or the social inference module helping with the language aspects of the IQ tests. The more 'competent' your module is the higher your IQ but the more times it gives a false positive. And it turns out that seeing a tiger hiding in every shadow or feeling crippling embarrassment every time you're in company is not good for your mental health.

      The more oblivious percentiles brush it off (if they even noticed it at all) and move on with their lives. That seems about right.

      Yup. That does sound about right.

    • What exactly is intelligent about melting down? As someone with a lapsed membership, ADD, social anxiety and major depressive disorder, I can tell you none of it has anything to do with external conditions. The causal arrows point the other way - depression comes first and colors perceptions of the world around you. It doesn't take a whole lot of intellect to recognize that since depression is a neurochemical condition affecting how you process information, the problem can't be the world around you. It'
  • It certainly goes a long ways in explaining the comment section around here.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @08:59PM (#55393947)

    The sample populations here are terrible, but I can accept the overall proposition as plausible.

    My theory would mostly center around the idea that higher intelligence is associated with a diminished ability to accept falsifiable or non-provable platitudes, optimism and superstitious thinking. This leads to a deficit of coping mechanisms for the difficulties of every day life and hardships, resulting increased stress, pessimism and negative thoughts and ideation. You might even oversimplify it as a lack of hope in some ways.

    Less intelligent people may find superstitions (including but not just religious belief) easier to accept, especially if provided by authority figures. They're more likely to believe in optimistic future outcomes, including improbable ones, not out of gullibility but because they lack the understanding of why they are unlikely -- it's a "I can win the lottery" mindset. This provides a wealth of coping mechanisms for dealing with ordinary setbacks and problems, reducing stress and anxiety. Jesus won't _really_ set you free, but if you're dumb enough to believe it, he will actually set you free.

    All this being said, it's probably just as easy to believe that people with an interest in joining an exclusive high IQ group are also people with a low sense of self esteem who are prone to depression. Belonging to a group that's not only exclusive but also exclusively for high intelligence people provides them with a sense of validation and superiority, but for many it's not enough and they wind up depressed and anxious anyway.

    But I guess all of it could be true to some extent.

    • > Less intelligent people may find superstitions (including but not just religious belief) easier to accept, especially if provided by authority figures.

      Not everything is about IQ. For example, there are a lot of smart people floating around that really do think God (as described in Bible) exist or that X = Y, or whatever else.

      There are all kinds of people. We see IQ as it's ultimate and final metric for whatever, ignoring dozen other things that are equally important but we have no way of measuring them

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        I don't disagree, but the "study" was that high IQ people are more at risk for mental illness, not that it was a defined cause-effect.

        Obviously the psychology associated with this is complex, and yes, there have been many extremely intelligent people with a belief in God, individual spiritual/metaphysical beliefs or philosophical understandings that provide a less cynical, positive psychological bias.

        I was mostly elucidating the mechanism where I thought intelligence could become a barrier to belief systems

      • We see IQ as it's ultimate and final metric for whatever, ignoring dozen other things that are equally important but we have no way of measuring them

        Who's "We"? I don't know anyone who thinks IQ is the ultimate measurement. It's the best we've got.

        There's also differences between believing something that is false, believing something that cannot be proven false, and believing something based on subjective evidence. Don't be too sure that people who believe in God are necessarily wrong and deluded. S

    • Interesting idea, but it fails to account for the congenital nature of many of these conditions.
  • The same types of people that sign up for Mensa may feel that it is a badge of honor to identify as being on the autism spectrum.
  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @09:20PM (#55394045)

    The stereotype of a tortured genius may have a basis in reality after a new study found that people with higher IQs are more at risk of developing mental illness. A team of U.S. researchers surveyed 3,715 members of American Mensa with an IQ higher than 130. An "average IQ score" or "normal IQ score" can be defined as a score between 85 and 115.

    Another interpretation of the data is that people who join American Mensa have a higher probability of having a mental illness. There's even a very plausible mechanism for this, people with a mental illness often look for ways to treat that illness, joining a group of people they can potentially relate to (ie Mensa) is one way to deal with their illness.

  • A logical person might conclude people who join MENSA are perhaps a little too impressed with themselves, perhaps even to the point of being narcissistic.

    So one could argue that such people might well be less stable than people with a 130+ IQ who feel no need to constantly reassure themselves about their putative intellectual superiority.

    I am a model of psychological balance, yet I could join MENSA if I wanted to. I have never felt the need.

    Besides, our Chairthing said I'd have to give up my seat on the Ga

  • Nature tries really hard to produce "average" people. That's why we have a think called the "normal curve"--the majority of people are within the "average" intelligence range, and are "average" in most ways. Only a very few are exceptionally beautiful, or smart, or strong, or whatever other superlative quality might be desirable.

    Most extremely talented people I know are somewhat out of balance. Extremely gifted artists tend to struggle with logic, and brilliant scientists tend to struggle with social relat

  • Read a History book ... any subject ... and figure that one out pretty quickly.

  • Many intelligent people do not feel they need to join any specific organization to mark that fact. Perhaps those who do are more likely to have emotional or mental issues?

    Any such study that does not start with a large and unbiased cohort before they even got their IQ tested is close to worthless.

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Thursday October 19, 2017 @07:53AM (#55395581)

    You need to be in the top 2% for IQ scores to join Mensa. It means that about 6 million Americans are eligible to join Mensa, compare this to abound 60000 actual members.
    It means that only 1% of Americans with high IQ are Mensa members, so I think it is safe to assume that there are other important criteria that make people join Mensa. So is it the IQ or is it something else that cause this correlation.

    I don't know how they addressed this in the (paywalled) paper. Did they run tests to weed out external factors or did they leave that task to other researchers? For example, did they do their own IQ tests in addition to relying on Mensa members to get a good sample of people with high IQ?

  • ... just drive me crazy.
  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Thursday October 19, 2017 @08:45AM (#55395851)

    So people smart enough to know what they might have, and smart enough to get tested for things, and smart enough to ask for help, report problems more often than the average dumb person who needs to be convinced to go to a doctor once in a while, wear a seatbelt in a car, get vaccinated for major illnesses, and not fall for Nigerian scams?

    I think it's safe to say that smart people identify more problems than dumb people -- independent of how many problems either group has.

    I also get my car repaired more often than the average car owner -- and my car's more reliable than the average car too. But I'm willing/able to repair non-essential parts, where the average car owner would just let it go, and drive with a cracked windshield, a squeaky bushing, a rusty dent, a less-than-perfect oxygen sensor, et cetera. There's a reason why routine emissions tests are now mandated.

    • Risk aversion may correlate with intelligence but I doubt the correlation is very strong. Some of the smartest people I know seem to have the part of their brain responsible for weighing risks absent.

      • I wasn't talking about risk aversion, per se, more knowing the difference between an everyday reality and a solvable anomaly.

        If you think that car brakes squeal normally, then you don't replace your brakes until they stop working. If you know that brakes squeal as an early-indicator, then you replace your brakes well-in-advance of them failing.

        Ask a few thousand people if there is anything wrong with their brakes, and the group with understanding of brake squealing will say yes, and the ignorant group will

  • From TFS:

    A team of U.S. researchers surveyed 3,715 members of American Mensa with an IQ higher than 130.

    So how do we know that this isn't just a case that mentally ill people are more interested in joining Mensa?

  • The more intelligent you are, the more aware you are of more things around you, and your understanding of them also increases; that's my experience, at least. That heightened awareness of the worlrd around you, and all the troubles that you perceive, can certainly stress you emotionally. "Ignorance is bliss" is a truism; on the flip-side of that coin, "Laughter is the best medicine" is also true; without sometimes laughing my ass off at whatever, I think I'd be much less balanced emotionally (Whose Line Is

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