The BBC published an article arguing:

People with lower intelligence are more likely to be unhappy than their brighter colleagues

Is that an accurate description of what we know about the correlation between happiness and intelligence?

  • 2
    @coleopterist : I can give you a link to a paper in a reputed journal that shows that precognition works, that doesn't make it an established scientific finding. Is there reason to believe that the effect is universal? Is there more than one paper that comes to this conclusion and no paper that disagrees?
    – Christian
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 10:33
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    @Anko : IQ is the obvious choice for people in psychology to measure intelligence.
    – Christian
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 11:33
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    @coleopterist is the paper reputable? does it actually say what the article says? are there other papers corroborating or disputing the fact?
    – Sklivvz
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 11:57
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    @Sklivvz How is that different from every other paper or articles on papers? This is currently a lazy question that does not even mention the study. As it is worded, it is simply a question of research, not scepticism. The focus should, if anything, be on the paper itself rather than the article and a foundation for scepticism ought to be established (perhaps supported with counter-claims from this Google search: "Are smarter people less likely to be happy?").
    – user7920
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 13:09
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    @coleopterist the claim is what people believe, the BBC article is an example/proof of notability. The paper studies the claim, so it's evidence and certainly not useful in the question. It's not "lazy" because I think that people at large will not be overly concerned with the paper, but they will believe (and maybe look up) the BBC article.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


There seems to be no correlation on an individual level between intelligence and happiness and on the average, cognitive abilities does not lead to more or less happiness per two studies mentioned below.

  1. A meta-analysis involving 19 studies by DeNeve & Cooper in 1998 found no correlation between intelligence and happiness.
  2. A study by Ruut Veenhoven et.al. in 2012 involving 23 studies done in ten different nations and involving 15,827 respondents found no correlation between IQ and happiness for childhood IQ and present day happiness or for current IQ and current happiness.
  • Im not sure 1. found no correlation. The very first paragraph states "Personality was found to be equally predictive of life satisfaction, happiness, and positive affect, but significantly less predictive of negative affect" Have I misunderstood that?
    – Jamiec
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 14:02
  • @Jamiec-The first paper by DeNeve and Cooper in 1998 states that intelligence was not expected to be a strong correlate to social well being (SWB) of which happiness is a component. The second paper also states 'These findings fit an earlier meta-analysis by DeNeve & Cooper (1998) who found almost no correlation between intelligence and happiness in a series of 19 studies, most of which were also used in the present analysis.' Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 14:45
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    A bit surprising, because there is a known correlation between intelligence and income, and a known correlation between income and happiness. Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 15:47
  • @kbelder If the effect is known, then it's likely that studies would control for it, e.g. by grouping measurements by income. Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 13:43

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