Worrying is a sign of high intelligence, according to scientists

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Kayleigh Dray

We’re all wired to worry, although how much fretting we actually do depends on individual mind-sets. However, an intriguing study – which has been published in the scientific journal Personality and Individual Differences – suggests that those who are prone to worry, rumination, and generalised anxiety are more intelligent than others.

A team of researchers – led by Professor Alexander Penney of Ontario’s Lakehead University – asked 126 undergraduate students to fill in a series of surveys and questionnaires, designed to measure both their intelligence and how much they tend to stress about events in their lives.

After analysing the results, Penney found that self-confessed worrywarts scored higher on verbal intelligence tests.

So what does this mean?

Well, it basically boils down to the fact that those who are prone to worry and generalised anxiety are often better at addressing, analysing, and solving situations using language-based reasoning.

They tend to excel in reading, writing, learning new languages, and speaking or telling stories – and these skills often prove useful in a number of different careers.

And it seems as if worrying has a few other added benefits as well.

“Much like most negative emotions, worry does have a function"

“Much like most negative emotions, worry does have a function"

Kate Sweeny, associate professor of psychology at the University of California, recently analysed the behaviours and mind-sets of frequent worriers – and she found that fretting can encourage behaviours that lead to better health, more success, and greater wellbeing.

Speaking to NBC News Better, she said: “Much like most negative emotions, worry does have a function. We probably wouldn't have evolved to worry if there was no reason to do it.

“When it comes to worry, that function is pretty clear: it draws our attention to the fact that there's something we maybe should be doing or preparing for or preventing, and it gives us the motivation to do something about that.”

Essentially, worrying helps us to prepare for the future – and reminds us to take action. However there is such a thing as worrying too much.

Clinical psychologist Melanie Greenberg explains: “If worry interferes with your life, if you can't focus and concentrate, if it's spoiling your pleasure in life, if you're procrastinating because you're so worried about how things will go, if you're just keyed up all the time and can't relax, if you're worrying about the same thing over and over and you can't put it aside, that would be unproductive.”

Speaking to, anxiety therapist Chloe Brotheridge suggests that we set ourselves a specific ‘worry time’, in a bid to stop ourselves churning over the same old thought patterns.

“A worry time is a 15-20 minute time slot each day which you solely devote to thinking and worrying about things,” she says. “Use it to find constructive solutions to the things that you have the power to change, and while you're at it, pick out the things you can't control or change, and try to let them go.”

You can find all five of Brotheridge’s tips on how to stop worrying here.

Images: iStock


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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