Young men who perform well in intelligence tests have less risk of committing suicide than those with lower scores, Swedish scientists said on Friday.
In one of the few studies assessing the link between intellect and suicide, researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute found that men who had the lowest scores were three times more likely to take their own life.
“There is a strong inverse association between intelligence test scores and suicide,” Finn Rasmussen, an associate professor at the institute, said in the report published in the British Medical Journal.
He and his colleagues analyzed test scores of 987,308 Swedish men when they entered the military and recorded the number of suicides among them over 26 years.
Nearly 3,000 took their own lives.
“Better performance on the tests was associated with a reduced risk of suicide,” he added.
Because of the large sample they studied and the strong association, it is unlikely that the results are due to chance.
The researchers suggested that poor test scores could be associated with depression and schizophrenia - two disorders that contribute to suicide.
It is also possible that people with low intelligence are less able to deal with their problems and may consider suicide as a solution. Low scorers could have suffered from behavioral problems as children, which could also have contributed to suicide risk.
Rasmussen and his team called for more detailed studies to investigate the possible underlying reasons for suicide.
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD