Nav: Home

Being wise is good for your health -- review looks at emerging science of wisdom

May 14, 2019

May 14, 2019 - Can science measure what it means to be wise? A growing body of evidence suggests that wisdom is a complex concept that contributes to mental health and happiness, according to a review in the May/June issue of Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Different aspects of wisdom may be traced to specific areas of the brain, and might possibly be enhanced by behavioral interventions, suggests the article by Dilip V. Jeste, MD, and Ellen E. Lee, MD, of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of California San Diego. They write, "Wisdom has important implications at both individual and societal levels, and warrants further research as a major contributor to human thriving."

Research Helps Define Wisdom and Its Impact on Our Lives

What is wisdom? While it has been discussed in religion and philosophy for centuries, scientific research on wisdom has accelerated in the past few decades. While it may seem impossible to define and measure wisdom, Drs. Jeste and Lee note that research has demonstrated the validity of other psychological constructs such as consciousness, stress, and resilience.

Based on an in-depth review from ancient writings to modern times, Drs. Jeste and Lee propose that wisdom can be defined as "a complex human trait with several specific components: social decision making, emotion regulation, prosocial behaviors, self-reflection, acceptance of uncertainty, decisiveness, and spirituality." Over the years, several approaches to measuring wisdom have been proposed, although each has its limitations.

The basic concept of wisdom has always been the same, suggesting that it "probably has an underlying neurobiological basis." Drs. Jeste and Lee propose a model of the neurobiology of wisdom, localized mainly to two areas of the brain: the prefrontal cortex and limbic striatum. "Emerging research suggests that wisdom is linked to better overall health, well-being, happiness, life satisfaction, and resilience," the researchers add.

Wisdom seems to increase with age despite decreased physical health, and has been linked to better quality of life. Enhancing wisdom in older age may even confer an evolutionary advantage: "Despite the loss of their own fertility and physical health, older adults help increase their children's well-being, health, longevity, and fertility - the 'Grandma Hypothesis' of wisdom." The authors propose a model of the development of wisdom, involving genetics, environment, and epigenetics.

Wisdom's positive effects on health and well-being raise an intriguing question: Can wisdom be increased? While research is limited so far, psychosocial and possibly biological interventions to enhance the function of brain areas involved might lead to enhanced wisdom. The researchers call for "a greater emphasis on promoting wisdom through our educational systems from elementary to professional schools."

Such efforts might have important benefits, with increases in wisdom leading to improved health and well-being on the societal as well as individual level. Drs. Jeste and Lee conclude, "There is a need to expand empirical research on wisdom, given its immense but largely untapped potential for enhancing mental health of individuals and promoting well-being of the society at large."
-end-
Click here to read "The Emerging Empirical Science of Wisdom"

DOI: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000205

About the Harvard Review of Psychiatry

The Harvard Review of Psychiatry is the authoritative source for scholarly reviews and perspectives on a diverse range of important topics in psychiatry. Founded by the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry, the journal is peer reviewed and not industry sponsored. It is the property of Harvard University and is affiliated with all of the Departments of Psychiatry at the Harvard teaching hospitals. Articles encompass major issues in contemporary psychiatry, including neuroscience, epidemiology, psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, history of psychiatry, and ethics.

About Wolters Kluwer

Wolters Kluwer is a global leader in professional information, software solutions, and services for the health, tax & accounting, finance, risk & compliance, and legal sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with specialized technology and services.

Wolters Kluwer, headquartered in the Netherlands, reported 2017 annual revenues of €4.4 billion. The company serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries, and employs approximately 19,000 people worldwide.

Wolters Kluwer Health is a leading global provider of trusted clinical technology and evidence-based solutions that engage clinicians, patients, researchers and students with advanced clinical decision support, learning and research and clinical intelligence. For more information about our solutions, visit http://healthclarity.wolterskluwer.com and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @WKHealth.

Wolters Kluwer Health

Related Mental Health Articles:

Food insecurity can affect your mental health
Food insecurity (FI) affects nearly 795 million people worldwide. Although a complex phenomenon encompassing food availability, affordability, utilization, and even the social norms that define acceptable ways to acquire food, FI can affect people's health beyond its impact on nutrition.
Climate change's toll on mental health
When people think about climate change, they probably think first about its effects on the environment, and possibly on their physical health.
Quantifying nature's mental health benefits
The BioScience Talks podcast features discussions of topical issues related to the biological sciences.
Sexism may be harmful to men's mental health
Men who see themselves as playboys or as having power over women are more likely to have psychological problems than men who conform less to traditionally masculine norms, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
Mental health matters
UCSB researchers study the effectiveness of an innovative program designed to help youth learn about mental health.
Could mental math boost emotional health?
Engaging the brain's dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DL-PFC) while doing mental math may be connected with better emotional health, according to Duke researchers.
Program will train mental health providers, improve health care in rural Missouri
A new graduate education program at the University of Missouri has received nearly $700,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration in the US Department of Health and Human Services to train psychology doctoral candidates in integrated, primary health care settings, in an effort to improve health care for underserved populations with mental health and physical disorders.
Loss of employer-based health insurance in early retirement affects mental, physical health
The loss of private health insurance from an employer can lead to poorer mental and physical health as older adults transition to early retirement, according to a study by Georgia State University.
Ocean views linked to better mental health
Here's another reason to start saving for that beach house: new research suggests that residents with a view of the water are less stressed.
New study shows electronic health records often capture incomplete mental health data
This study compares information available in a typical electronic health record (EHR) with data from insurance claims, focusing on diagnoses, visits, and hospital care for depression and bipolar disorder.

Related Mental Health Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".