The association between intelligence and telomere length: a longitudinal population based study

Eva M Kingma, Peter de Jonge, Pim van der Harst, Johan Ormel, Judith G M Rosmalen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Low intelligence has been associated with poor health and mortality, but underlying mechanisms remain obscure. We hypothesized that low intelligence is associated with accelerated biological ageing as reflected by telomere length; we suggested potential mediation of this association by unhealthy behaviors and low socioeconomic position. The study was performed in a longitudinal population-based cohort study of 895 participants (46.8% males). Intelligence was measured with the Generalized Aptitude-Test Battery at mean age 52.8 years (33-79 years, SD=11.3). Leukocyte telomere length was measured by PCR. Lifestyle and socioeconomic factors were assessed using written self-report measures. Linear regression analyses, adjusted for age, sex, and telomere length measured at the first assessment wave (T1), showed that low intelligence was associated with shorter leukocyte telomere length at approximately 2 years follow-up (beta= .081, t=2.160, p= .031). Nearly 40% of this association was explained by an unhealthy lifestyle, while low socioeconomic position did not add any significant mediation. Low intelligence may be a risk factor for accelerated biological ageing, thereby providing an explanation for its association with poor health and mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e49356
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Age Factors
  • Cellular Senescence/physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence/genetics
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Leukocytes/physiology
  • Life Style
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Telomere Shortening/physiology


Dive into the research topics of 'The association between intelligence and telomere length: a longitudinal population based study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this