Gifted Adults and Wellbeing
There are varying views on whether gifted people have better or worse wellbeing than the general population. The OG of gifted research, the Terman study, which followed a gifted cohort throughout their lives found that gifted kids mostly grew up to be gifted, happy, well-adjusted adults. Yet, other research has suggested higher mental health problems among the gifted population. The bottom line is that every single person is different, and grouping all gifted people as one homogenous group is likely very misleading. So rather than lamenting on whether the population as a whole is better or worse off than their peers, we're pulling out some highlights on factors that have been linked to wellbeing within various gifted populations.
These are some of the highlights in the research:
Generativity is the idea that you are giving something back, contributing to something larger, making the world better than it is. Gifted people who have higher generativity have reported higher levels of wellbeing.
Satisfaction with work has been identified as an important predictor for general life satisfaction among some gifted populations. Gifted adults who feel like they have independence at work and are contributing to meaningful work report higher levels of work satisfaction.
Striving for goals is one thing that matters to many gifted people. This may be related to the strong emphasis many gifted place on wanting to live up to their potential and to contribute more.
Self compassion is huge for the wellbeing of many gifted people. While they strive for goals, they may create unrealistically high expectations of themselves. Being able to treat themselves kindly even when those expectations cannot be met is crucial to wellbeing among the gifted. If this resonates with you, remember that it is important to appreciate and accept the achievements that are already there in front of you and be kind to yourself about those that are not.
Spirituality has been identified as one of the drivers behind gifted adults finding meaning in their lives. This is separate from religiosity, which was not found to play the same role among gifted populations. Some researchers have hypothesized that spirituality and a more personalized approach to the idea of a higher power (instead of religiosity) might be more appreciated by gifted populations and in line with their cognitive complexity.
If you'd like to read more on the specifics of the research that we've summarized here, jump over to our research page to learn more.
Dijkstra, P., Barelds, D. P. H., Ronner, S., & Nauta, A. P. (2012). Personality and well-being: Do the intellectually gifted differ from the general population?
Karprinski, R. I., Kinase Kolb, A. M., Tetreault, N. A., & Borowski, T. B. (2018). High intelligence: A risk factor for psychological and physiological overexcitabilities.
Pollet & Schnell. 2019. Brilliant: But What For? Meaning and Subjective Well-Being in the Lives of Intellectually Gifted and Academically High-Achieving Adults
Votter & Schnell. 2019. Bringing Giftedness to Bear: Generativity, Meaningfulness, and Self-Control as Resources for a Happy Life Among Gifted Adults.