Does being smart make you happy? Research into intelligence and happiness has not generally shown a strong correlation between the two. As Bostrom/Sandberg wrote in 2009, “There is no link between higher intelligence and more happiness,” and Gottfredson said much the same thing in 2004: “subjective well-being (happiness) … is regularly found not to correlate meaningfully with IQ level.” But now a study (full PDF here) from University College London finds that, in fact, “happiness is significantly associated with IQ,” meaning that more IQ = more happies.
Their study was based on the responses of almost 7000 subjects aged 16 and older. These subjects’ (verbal) IQs were estimated using the UK’s National Adult Reading Test. Subjects in the lowest IQ range (70-99) reported the lowest levels of happiness, and those in the highest group (IQ 120-129) reported being the happiest. These results were mediated by variables including income, health, and neuroticism.
The authors suggest that more education and more opportunities for employment, as well as better means of detecting (mental) health problems, might help enhance happiness levels in those with lower IQs.
It stands to reason that if you’re poor and/or unhealthy, you’ll also be less happy. But it also makes sense that a higher IQ could help mitigate these circumstances, as smarter people are more likely to be able to lift themselves out of poverty and to understand how to improve and maintain their own health.
At the same time, being smart might also lead to more existential anguish: what is the point of all this human suffering? Why do so many people believe so many foolish things? Why has this device been so poorly designed? Ad infinitum.
What do you think?