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Study: Low IQ linked to suicide risk

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 4 Jun 2010, 08:24

Published: 04 Jun 2010 08:24 GMT+02:00

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"It seems that those with less aptitude have lower capacity to manage difficult life situations," explained Finn Rasmussen, a professor at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm to the TT news agency.

Rasmussen has been involved in a study together with colleagues from the UK and Australia, the results of which are set to be published in the upcoming edition of the British Medical Journal.

The study is the largest of its kind and considered information collated on 1.1 million men at the time of their national service - around 18/19 years of age.

The researchers have been able to show that lower IQ in the late teens carries a higher risk of attempted suicide later in life.

The results were shown to apply to men without a current diagnosis of psychosis. In the instance of a psychosis diagnosis the figures indicated the opposite with those with higher IQ more likely to attempt suicide.

The researchers explained their results in that those with lower IQ tend to achieve lower income levels and are more prone to violence and abuse, and thus suggesting that socio-economic factors could explain the heightened risk.

But the study also forwards the theory that a lower aptitude to stress management could exist among those with lower mental capacity. If this proves to be the case the researchers hope that it will be able to direct society's resources at preventing attempted suicide among clearly identified groups.

Cases of attempted suicides have increased dramatically in Sweden since the end of the 1990s, particularly among women aged 16-24 but the trend is also mirrored among men of the same age. The new Karolinska study is unable to explain this increase and some experts have forwarded the view that the tough employment market for young people is a causal factor.

While cases of attempted suicide may be on the increase among some age groups Sweden maintains a fairly moderate level of suicide international, according to World Health Organization statistics from 2003.

Lithuania carries the distinction of the highest rate in Europe with 75.6/100,000 for men and 16.1/100,000 for women.

Sweden has 19.7/100,000 for men and 8.0/100,000 for women.

Story continues below…

France, New Zealand, Australia and Germany, among others, all have higher rates of suicide than Sweden, which comes in slightly higher than the USA and Canada.

The long-perpetuated myth of Sweden's high suicide rate dates back to the late 1950s and a speech given by the then US President Dwight D. Eisenhower which had been based on an inaccurate briefing.

The President's speech was intended to paint a negative picture of Sweden, then a country advocating a brand of third-way cradle-to-the-grave socialism and adopting a stance of post-war neutrality outside NATO and US influence.

While Eisenhower's speech did not name Sweden specifically, the speech and ensuing media coverage are widely accepted to have established the myth.

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

09:11 June 4, 2010 by calebian22
"Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid."--John Wayne
09:58 June 4, 2010 by WelshSwede
I thought if they were that stupid they wouldnt know how to do it!
10:47 June 4, 2010 by shrabn
I just wonder, why you have copied from http://liftlab.com/think/fabien/2005/01/29/the-myth-of-swedish-suicide/ to the last part of your story without mentioing about "Edinburgh University Library on Scandinavia".. is it ethical?
12:48 June 4, 2010 by B-dogg.
Lol. The world needs a few more John Waynes.
12:57 June 4, 2010 by Audrian
This research does not seem to answer questions crucial to its conclusions: (1) is it claiming that all offspring of rich families have high IQ even though their wealth is inherited. (2) Is it also claiming that Swedes have higher IQ than the rest of Western Europe? It looks like it is a continuation of biological research of the last century, which is associated with Sweden, and, which was later, picked up by the Nazis. One of the most notorious German researchers conducted his biological research in Namibia, a German colony in Southern Africa at that time, who continued his research in Germany on Jews and Roma people. (3) In the US there were several researches of this type done by institutions affiliated to Nazi organizations or funded by them, which were done with the attempt to show superiority of the rich and white elite. At one time the Japanese were claiming that they were superior to Americans including whites. Who is interested in this kind o f research? (1) By claiming that the poor are responsible for their poverty it absolves of the rich of any responsibilities, even though most got their initial wealth from plunder and theft. (Read for example the History of the people of the US, by Howard Zinn). (2) It rationalizes elite rule by the claim that they have IQ and fit to rule. In the US it is same type of people who rule. Those who are not beholden to the banks and big corporation do not have any chance of being elected for major political offices.

Correlation studies, which the finding of this study is based on, often fail to control confounding variables. I suspect this study is done by PhD student. The professors who examine him or her concentrate on the statistical techniques rather than the quality of the outcome of the study. I think we should look at this research with a grain of salt!
14:06 June 4, 2010 by Byggare Bob
@ shrabn

I guess it would have been unethical had the text been copied, but looking at your link it has at best been re-written, unlikely I would have thought given the somewhat obscure choice of source.

I have read that Eisenhower info. before on The Local and presumably is widely known as the speech is surely a matter of public record.

Google - Eisenhower, Sweden, Suicide and see what comes up. http://homepage.mac.com/jrc/contrib/sweden_suicide.html for starters
15:09 June 4, 2010 by here for the summer
@audrian read the story without your bias their two conclusions are obvious and logical

1) lower iq people have more difficulty dealing with life problems that higher iq people ..

2) lower iq people make less money on average than higher iq people

How can you disagree .. without the score this is a wide range . many studies have shown that on average he higher the iq the less life problems people have ( arrest, life span, health ) even up to some very high levels so 160 does better than 140 on these measures.
16:57 June 4, 2010 by voiceofreason
I knew it. I knew it would take a dumb fella to take his own life.
21:50 June 4, 2010 by suckfist
There are some interesting correlations between this article and Rushton's study, "Race, Evolution and Behavior."

Rushton's research notes how blacks, despite having low IQs (70 for Africans and 85 for Afr-Americans), do not have higher rates of suicides than whites (100) and East Asians (105).

His research also shows that blacks suffer from higher rates of mental illness than whites and East Asians....now to my point...

According to this article, those with diagnosed psychoses are more likely to kill themselves if their IQs are high--blacks, while suffering from more psychoses, do not kill themselves as much since, I presume, their IQs are low.

Interesting stuff.
01:03 June 5, 2010 by mjennin2
Well, let's consider the following statements:

1) It's harder to be dumb in a smart world

2) It's harder to be smart in a dumb world.

Well, clearly we live in a dumb world. They say ignorance is bliss, and blissful people usually don't can themselves.

Surely it's more difficult to be a smart person in this stupid world. So, my vote is for team "High IQ = High Suicide rate".

Gaza premeditated suicide martyrs are an exception to this rule.
05:12 June 5, 2010 by texasgubbar
Of course morons would have higher attempted suicide rates, the smart people would be more successful at it.
07:36 June 5, 2010 by geekgirl
President Eisenhower, lol..

Regarding the IQ at the age of 18 thing.. I'm partial.

Many historic pioneers, whether scientists, inventors, businessmen or other have been aptitude challenged in their early years, as reported by their teachers and others who knew them. So having a low IQ @ 18 should not mean that one is more likely to be suicidal later in life, because they stand a good chance of succeeding just like anyone else.

For instance, Albert Einstein had Dysgraphia, a form of Dyslexia. But look how he turned around.

Moreover, IQ tests have their flaws and criticism.
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