Science Says The Smarter You Are, The Longer You'll Live

When you're young and in high school, being smart is pretty disproportionately associated with how cool you are.

The nerds and the overachievers are consistently at the bottom of any high school totem pole. And they know it.

And because they know it, they spend most of their time figuring out how to shrink themselves even further away from the gaze of the so-called cool and popular kids.

Nerds and overachievers have their noses in their notebooks. Their priority lies in their studies, their homework and their next shot at getting an A.

They never get invited to parties, so they don't start drinking until college, at which point every incoming freshman is somehow a seasoned drinking veteran.

They're the epitome of the goody-two-shoes, the rule-followers, the lame-ass kids. Trust me, I would know -- I've been one of them for most of my life.

Despite the fact that we angelic dweebs have been historically looked down upon and kicked to the curb by drunken, air-headed, Juicy Couture-wearing conformists, we've accomplished a lot.

We're your valedictorians and your bosses. Bill Gates once warned a group of high schoolers to "be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one." He's right.

And now, we nerds and overachievers can add something else to our list of accomplishments: a longer life.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that smart people have genes that predict a longer lifespan.

Previously, it's been suggested that smart people live longer because of external factors -- maybe they make better, healthier life choices or maybe they make more money that allows them to afford better healthcare.

But Rosalind Arden, one of the researchers of the study, and her colleagues wondered if smarter people just have better genetic makeups that foster intelligence and longevity.

To test this hypothesis, researchers analyzed data from three separate studies of pairs of twins, both identical and fraternal, in which one twin in each pair had died.

One study examined 377 pairs of male veterans from the NAS-NRC US World War II Twin Registry; the second study examined 246 pairs of twins from the Swedish Twin Registry; and the third study examined 784 pairs of twins from the Danish Twin Registry.

Each study also included information about each twin's intelligence level, which was tested by a wide range of factors specific to each individual study.

Researchers combined all of this information to ask the following question: Did the smarter twin live longer than the "dumber" twin? And if so, was it because of genetic makeup or external factors?

Since twins share genetic makeups, understanding how genes express themselves in twins can help researchers determine which human qualities are more influenced by genes and which are more influenced by external factors.

For this study, the difference between identical and fraternal twins was especially crucial in determining the influence of genes on intelligence and longevity.

Identical twins share 100 percent of their DNA and fraternal twins share 50 percent. Therefore, in order to prove that lifespan is truly based more off genetic factors than environmental factors, there would have to be a larger difference in life span between the smarter twin and the "dumber" twin in a pair of fraternal twins than there would be between the smarter twin and the "dumber" twin in a pair of identical twins.

This, so it seems, turned out to be true.

In all three studies, the researchers found that the smarter twins in each pair lived longer, regardless of whether they were identical or fraternal, likely due to those external factors.

But the pattern was more pronounced between fraternal twins, suggesting that the difference in genetic makeup fostered both intelligence and a longer life.

Overall, researchers determined that about 95 percent of the relationship between intelligence and longevity is influenced by genetic makeup.

This study is slightly limited in that it only took into account deaths that occurred after middle age, Arden told LifeScience.

And external factors do still have an influence on longevity, so Arden is interested in really solidifying the influence of genetics by replicating this study with animals that don't make the questionable lifestyle choices that human beings make.

"You don't find many dogs or mice that abuse alcohol or smoke weed," she said. "In fact, most dogs and mice don't even smoke cigarettes."

Still, it's nice to see the nerds and overachievers come out on top. Because not only do we make better decisions that lead us to have better lives, but we were just blessed with better genetic luck.