Worrying Too Much is a Sign of High Intelligence

Worrying Too Much is a Sign of High IntelligenceWorrying Too Much is a Sign of High Intelligence

They are mocked for their frequent fretting but worriers may have the last laugh.

Research suggests that being a worrier is a sign of high intelligence.

Those who live in constant fear they won’t get everything done and who can’t switch off worrisome thoughts are more articulate.

In tests, worriers scored higher in something called verbal intelligence – the ability to understand and work with the written and spoken word.

The Canadian researchers said there are clear advantages to being a worrier. The team from Lakehead University in Ontario put 125 students through a battery of tests. This included measures of depression and shyness and a test of verbal intelligence.

The verbal intelligence test looked at vocabulary, as well as the ability to categorize words and to understand proverbs. The men and women also filled in a ‘worry questionnaire’ which asked them how much they agreed with statements such as ‘I am always worrying about something’ and ‘I have been a worrier all my life.’

Those who admitted to worrying a lot also tended to do better on the test of verbal intelligence – at least when their worries about the experiment itself was taken into account.

The researchers said that taking the time to anticipate and plan for potential threats could have helped our ancestors survive. After all, it is better to be overly cautious and live than be too confident and then be struck down by disease or killed by a wild animal.

Writing in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, they said: ‘From an evolutionary standpoint, there are fewer costs associated with worrying about a threatening event that does not occur than failing to anticipate, plan for and avoid one that does.’


The study also found links between high verbal intelligence and depression.

What is more, the men and women who found it hard not to replay past events in their heads and think ‘what if?’ scored poorly on a test of non-verbal intelligence.

This involved completing a series of geometric puzzles and is a measure of observational skills, problem solving ability and abstract reasoning.

The researchers said it is possible that those who are good with words find it easier to think in detail about past and future events – raising the odds of them being worriers.

In contrast, those with good observational skills may live in the moment and be better at making judgments as things happen and so have less need to dwell on them later.