Fretting too much about, well, anything, could manifest into some scary side effects like muscle tension, sleep deprivation, and even rashes. But according to some new research, being a worrywart isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, it could mean you’re really smart.
A team of researchers surveyed 126 undergraduate students to compare their levels of anxiety to their intelligence. The participants were asked several questions about their stress and anxiety levels, their mood, social habits, and how much they agreed with certain statements like “I am always worrying about something.” Researchers also evaluated students based on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (a test designed to measure intelligence in adults) to learn more about their verbal and non-verbal skills.
Turns out, the students who more often agreed with the anxiety-based statements also scored higher on the verbal intelligence test. And lead researcher Alexander Penney and his team believe that it’s because “more verbally intelligent individuals are able to consider past and future events in greater detail, leading to more intense rumination and worry.” Essentially, the higher your ability to analyze information and solve problems using language-based reasoning, the more you’ll dwell on past and future events that might cause you to feel anxious or stressed.
On the flip side, Penney and his team say that those who were more nonverbally intelligent — people who can solve problems using hands-on reasoning and visual cues — might be better at reacting in the moment and don’t feel the need to re-process past social encounters as deeply.