Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Why Intelligent People Live Longer


Numerous studies find a positive relationship between cognitive ability, IQ as measured in childhood or youth, and subsequent survival. Explanations range from the idea that low ability is an indicator of adverse systemic events in early life to the idea that high cognitive functioning is required continuously to maintain health and reduce threats to survival. The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) has followed a large cohort of Wisconsin high school seniors from ages 18 to 69. As expected, in the WLS survival varies positively with adolescent IQ. However, rank in high school class accounts completely for the relationship between IQ and survival, and it has a much larger effect on survival. These findings suggest that cognitive functioning improves survival by promoting behaviours that boost health status, minimize exposure to known risks and optimize returns to health producing inputs, and that such behaviours are firmly in place by late adolescence.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Robert Hauser or Alberto Palloni.

Rights and permissions

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hauser, R., Palloni, A. Why Intelligent People Live Longer. Nat Prec (2010).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Intelligence
  • survival
  • mortality
  • IQ
  • longevity


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing