Disease and IQ


People who live in countries where disease is rife may have lower IQs because they have to divert energy away from brain development to fight infections, scientists in the US claim.

The controversial idea might help explain why national IQ scores differ around the world, and are lower in some warmer countries where debilitating parasites such as malaria are widespread, they say.

Researchers behind the theory claim the impact of disease on IQ scores has been under-appreciated, and believe it ranks alongside education and wealth as a major factor that influences cognitive ability.

Attempts to measure intelligence around the world are fraught with difficulty and many researchers doubt that IQ tests are a suitable tool for the job. The average intelligence of a nation is likely to be governed by a complex web of interwoven factors.


I think it depends on the disease. High fevers in the young tend to effect their development. I suspect the fever damages some of the brain tissue. It is an area worth exploring. Malaria is a disease that usually causes fever.


  1. The scientists seem to acknowledge that this is only a partial explanation. Also, reading the paper I note that the disease/iq correlation falls over in South America as the Carribean countries score lower than expected. The authors try to explain this saying: “It is possible that local parasites … are causing these outliers”. However, that seems speculative when the more obvious answer is that you have different ethnic populations who have different average traits.


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