More about the Math Club Syndrome: Hey, Bro!

April 16, 2018

It was not that long ago that being a geek or nerd had negative connotations. Geeks and nerds were and continue to be targets for bullies, but the social stigma has changed. It is now okay to be smart, to be interested in science-fiction and fantasy, to watch cartoons in your adulthood, and to be good at something other than sports. Geeks and nerds always knew they would inherit the Earth…er…rule over society…er…find acceptance. Just as the underdogs thought they were gaining a foothold, Scientific American springs this on them: “Superior IQs Associated With Mental And Physical Disorders, Research Suggests.”

Being smart has many advantages, the article points out, including longer life, have healthier lives, and less likely to experience negative events. The journal Intelligence published a study that shows the downside of high IQs. Ruth Karpinsku from Pitzer College emailed a psychological and physiological disorder survey to Mensa members and the results found that smart people are more likely to have some serious disorders. The questions included ones about mood, anxiety, autism, and ADHD disorders and also asthma, allergies, and autoimmune problems. The respondents were asked if they were diagnosed or suspected they had the disorders and 75% of the Mensa said yes. Here are some more numbers:

“The biggest differences between the Mensa group and the general population were seen for mood disorders and anxiety disorders. More than a quarter (26.7%) of the sample reported that they had been formally diagnosed with a mood disorder, while 20% reported an anxiety disorder—far higher than the national averages of around 10% for each. The differences were smaller, but still statistically significant and practically meaningful, for most of the other disorders. The prevalence of environmental allergies was triple the national average (33% vs. 11%).”

Some of Karpinski’s findings and interpretations have been discussed in the scientific community before. Most of the findings that state more intelligent people spend more time analyzing and feeling anxiety over events like a boss’s comment is not new. The better question to ask is if Mensa people are more different from the average person, because they spend their time with intellectual pursuits instead of exercise or social interaction.

This is just another study about the difference between average and above average people. More research needs to be done before definitive conclusions can be drawn. Equality? Sure, anyone can join the Math Club. Will the real members tell you when the “real” meeting is? Duh.

Whitney Grace, April 16, 2018

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