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Smarter People Worry More

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Well this makes us worrywarts feel all kinds of better. Apparently, it’s always smart people who worry more. Makes sense, really; if there’s not a lot going up there, there’s not going to be a lot to worry about. It’s true what they say; ignorance really is bliss. On the flip side, the more active your brain is, the more you analyse and dissect information and the more you tend towards problem solving, the higher the likelihood you’re going to find something to stress about. High levels of intelligence = higher chance of anxiety.

A recent smattering of studies serves to validate this long-assumed theory. Reported by Slate, psychologist Alexander Penney and his team of researchers surveyed more than 100 students at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada. Each participant was asked to report on their varying levels of worry. To nobody’s surprise,  Penney and co found that those who grappled with worry on the daily, agreeing with statements like “I am always worrying about something”,  rated a lot higher on a verbal intelligence test than those who didn’t have a care in the world. “It is possible that more verbally intelligent individuals are able to consider past and future events in greater detail, leading to more intense rumination and worry” says Penney.

Slate also refer to a 2012 experiment by Israeli psychologists Tsachi Ein-Dor and Orgad Tal in which 80 students suffered random bursts of increased stress. In a very clever test, the students were asked to observe artwork on a software programme. Somewhere in the middle of their observations, they were lead to believe they had accidentally caused a virus in the computer. They were then tasked with getting the computer fixed with the help of tech support, but in the midst of all of that, they were given even more random stressors – another student ‘accidentally’ dropped a load of papers in front of them, on their way to seeking assistance, for example.

As expected, the more anxious the students felt, the more intelligent they seemed to be. They were more alert, and totally fixated on solving the initial problem of the computer virus. “We found that anxious individuals were less willing to be delayed on their way to deliver a warning message,” explained Ein-Dor and Tal. Slate reference lots more interesting research here.

Take solace, fellow worriers; you’re in good company.

@CarolineForan

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