Intelligent men are less likely to develop depression, new research suggests.Having a high Intelligent Quotient (IQ) reduces mental distress even in those with high levels of inflammation, a study found.Previous research links inflammation with a higher risk of the mental-health disorder.
Study author Professor Eirini Flouri, from University College London, said: “There appears to be some protective effect of having a high IQ.”This may be due to intelligent people being more likely to lead healthy lifestyles, such as eating well and exercising regularly, according to the researchers.The study also found intelligence does not protect women from depression, which may be due to hormonal or immune-system differences between the sexes, they add.
Experts believe men can boost their intelligence, and therefore reduce their risk of the mental-health condition, by doing activities that improve their memories.Dr. Golam Khandaker, from the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the study, told the New Scientist: “The brain is not a muscle, it’s a lump of fat – but you can train it like a muscle.
“If we take measures to keep inflammation down, it should have a positive impact on a number of factors.”The researchers analysed more than 9,600 people aged between 18 and 97 years old who live in the United Kingdom (UK).
The participants completed surveys about their mental health, including whether they experience psychological distress. Psychological distress is a general term that describes unpleasant feelings or emotions that impact people’s functioning. It is associated with depression. Blood samples were taken to determine the participants’ inflammation levels.
The participants also completed tests that assessed their memories, problem-solving skills and abilities to reason. This created their IQ scores.Why does intelligence only boost men’s mental health? Men produce higher levels of the hormone testosterone, which has been linked to inflammation and ‘internal’ stress.
Previous research also suggests women are more prone to inflammation and its related diseases, such as arthritis. In addition, the stress women may typically endure, such as abuse, may be different to that experienced by men and may not benefit from intelligence, according to the researchers.
Different early-life experiences and genetics likely also play a role, they add.Professor Carmine Pariante, from Kings College London, speculates obesity and exercise may be more relevant to inflammation in women than intelligence. He adds, however, further research is required to determine if women’s intelligence influences their mental health.