"Suicide attempts less likely in men with higher IQs"
CNN (June 3, 2010)
"Young men with low IQs are much more likely than their peers to attempt suicide later in life, a new study has found. In fact, men with the lowest IQs are about four times more likely to attempt suicide as those with the highest, and the risk tends to go up as IQ drops.
"This may seem surprising to those who associate suicide with tortured geniuses like Ernest Hemingway and Vincent Van Gogh.
" 'There's a perception that people with higher IQs might be more neurotic, more anxious, and more depressed--Woody Allen style,' says Karestan Koenen, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.
" 'But the literature is very consistent that people with lower IQs are at increased risk not just of mental health problems, but of all kinds of physical health problems,' adds Koenen, who was not involved in the new study but has researched IQ and mental health.
"In the study, which was published on the website of the British Medical Journal, researchers followed 1.1 million male military recruits in Sweden for an average of 24 years. All of the men took a standardized IQ test between the ages of 16 and 25...."
Smart People aren't All Crazy?I've figured that a person could be a functional human being and still be fairly smart - stereotypes about angsty artists and suicidal poets notwithstanding. Whaddaya know: now there's some evidence to back up that assumption.
The researchers seem to have known what they were doing, when it came to analyzing the data:
"...Even after other factors that may influence suicide risk were taken into account--such as socioeconomic status, education, and even body mass index--the men with the lowest IQ were still about 3.5 times more likely to attempt suicide.
" 'We're not talking about a hospital group or a sick population, so these findings are generalizable to the general population,' says the lead author of the study, David Batty, Ph.D., a Wellcome Trust Fellow at the Medical Research Council, in Glasgow, Scotland. The Wellcome Trust funded the study...."
Facts, Guesses, and DisclaimersThey gave some educated guesses about why the smart guys didn't try to kill themselves as much - and were careful to point out what they don't know:
"...However, Batty and his colleagues point out that the findings may not necessarily apply to women, to older men, or to men in other countries. And there was no apparent link between IQ and suicide attempts in men with psychosis, they note.
"People with a lower IQ may be more likely to attempt suicide because they may have more trouble talking about or resolving personal problems, Batty suggests.
" 'Individuals with higher IQ scores may be better able to describe to friends and health professionals some of the problems they're going through,' he says. 'Another explanation might be that individuals with higher IQ scores can come up with more solutions. They may identify the need to see a health professional earlier, or deal with the root causes of their suicidal thoughts by changing jobs or solving relationships.'..."
Suicide: For Me, It's PersonalWith my background, I'm more inclined to go with the 'able to deal with it' explanation: although sometimes professional help can, well, help. I've discussed suicide and depression in another blog, A Catholic Citizen in America:
- "Prayer, Medicine and Trusting God"
(March 4, 2010)
- Bottom line? Take your meds
- "Medication for Depression? Yeah: The Catholic Church is Okay With That"
(February 25, 2010)
- "The Catholic Church Won't Even Let People Kill Themselves"
(January 28, 2009)
A few years ago a psychiatrist determined that I had major depression. Now, thanks to medications - mostly serotonin uptake inhibitors - I'm able to spend more time using my brain, and less fighting with the controls. That's how it felt, anyway. Sort of like having the power steering and brakes working again.
Why go into this personal detail?
Someone very dear to me killed herself. I might have done the same, earlier, if I hadn't been able to reason my way out of suicide. I really don't think suicide is a good idea - and I hope that by sharing this article, and some of my memories, I might tip the balance toward someone deciding to give living another try.
This sounds corny, but there's a little truth to it: Change happens. Happy feelings don't last. But neither do feelings like sadness and despair. Change happens: and that can be a good thing.