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- Past research links inflammation with mental-health conditions like depression
- Intelligent people may be more likely to lead healthy lifestyles, experts claim
- Women don’t benefit, which may be due to hormonal differences between sexes
- Previous research also found women are more prone to inflammation than men
- Men could reduce their risk of depression by boosting their memories
Intelligent men are less likely to develop depression, new research suggests.
Having a high IQ reduces mental distress even in those with high levels of inflammation, a study found.
Previous research links inflammation with a higher risk of the mental-health disorder.
Study author Professor Eirini Flouri, from University College London, said: ‘There appears to be some protective effect of having a high IQ.’
This may be due to intelligent people being more likely to lead healthy lifestyles, such as eating well and exercising regularly, according to the researchers.
The study also found intelligence does not protect women from depression, which may be due to hormonal or immune-system differences between the sexes, they add.
Experts believe men can boost their intelligence, and therefore reduce their risk of the mental-health condition, by doing activities that improve their memories.
Intelligent men are less likely to develop depression, new research suggests (stock)
DOES HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL INCREASE WOMEN’S RISK OF DEPRESSION?
Hormonal birth control does not increase women’s risk of depression, research suggested in February 2017.
Contrary to popular belief, contraceptive pills, implants or injections do not make women more likely to suffer from the mental-health condition, a study found.
Lead author Dr Brett Worly from Ohio State University, said: ‘Depression is a concern for a lot of women when they’re starting hormonal contraception.
‘Based on our findings, this side effect shouldn’t be a concern for most women, and they should feel comfortable knowing they’re making a safe choice.’
The researchers blame platforms such as social media for making contraception complications seem more common than they are.
Dr Worly said: ‘We live in a media-savvy age where if one or a few people have severe side effects, all of a sudden, that gets amplified to every single person.
‘The biggest misconception is that birth control leads to depression. For most patients that’s just not the case.’
The scientists add, however, certain women are at a greater risk of the mental-health disorder and should be monitored closely.
Dr Worly said: ‘Adolescents will sometimes have a higher risk of depression, not necessarily because of the medicine they’re taking, but because they have that risk to start with.
‘For those patients, it’s important that they have a good relationship with their healthcare provider so they can get the appropriate screening done – regardless of the medications they’re on.’
The researchers reviewed thousands of studies investigating the link between contraceptives and people’s mental health.
Such studies included various methods of contraception, including injections, implants and pills.
Participants in the trials were made up of teenagers, women with a history of depression and those who had given birth in the past six weeks.
Reducing inflammation could benefit ‘a number of factors’
Dr Golam Khandaker, from the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the study, told the New Scientist: ‘The brain is not a muscle, it’s a lump of fat – but you can train it like a muscle.
‘If we take measures to keep inflammation down, it should have a positive impact on a number of factors.’
The researchers analysed more than 9,600 people aged between 18 and 97 years old who live in the UK.
The participants completed surveys about their mental health, including whether they experience psychological distress.
Psychological distress is a general term that describes unpleasant feelings or emotions that impact people’s functioning. It is associated with depression.
Blood samples were taken to determine the participants’ inflammation levels.
The participants also completed tests that assessed their memories, problem-solving skills and abilities to reason. This created their IQ scores.
Why does intelligence only boost men’s mental health?
Men produce higher levels of the hormone testosterone, which has been linked to inflammation and ‘internal’ stress.
Previous research also suggests women are more prone to inflammation and its related diseases, such as arthritis.
In addition, the stress women may typically endure, such as abuse, may be different to that experienced by men and may not benefit from intelligence, according to the researchers.
Different early-life experiences and genetics likely also play a role, they add.
Professor Carmine Pariante, from Kings College London, speculates obesity and exercise may be more relevant to inflammation in women than intelligence.
He adds, however, further research is required to determine if women’s intelligence influences their mental health.
Depression is a physical illness, professor claims
This comes after research released in September last year suggested depression is a physical illness that could be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs.
An overactive immune system may trigger the mental-health condition by causing widespread inflammation that leads to feelings of hopelessness and unhappiness, according to a Cambridge University professor.
He adds the immune system may fail to ‘switch off’ after an illness or traumatic event, they add.
Past research shows people who suffer severe emotional trauma have signs of inflammation, suggesting their immune systems are constantly ‘fired-up’.
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Intelligent men are less likely to develop depression