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Smart Alcoholics

New research has shown that kids who have high IQ's at the age of 10 are more likely to be alcohol dependent at age 30. The effect is stronger in women than among men. In young girls, 15 more IQ points adds up to a 38% increased risk of alcoholism. Boys with 15 more smart points only have a 17% higher risk of being a boozer. This is not what the scientists expected. That is why science is done: to find out, not to prove your assumptions. Clarification for those who misread the title behind the cut: the 1970 British cohort study is of children who were BORN in 1970; this is new science based on an old foundation.
1: Am J Public Health. 2008 Dec;98(12):2237-43. Epub 2008 Jan 30.

Childhood mental ability and adult alcohol intake and alcohol problems: the 1970 British cohort study.
Batty GD, Deary IJ, Schoon I, Emslie C, Hunt K, Gale CR.

UK Medical Research Council Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

OBJECTIVES: We examined the potential relation of mental ability test scores at age 10 years with alcohol problems and alcohol intake at age 30 years. METHODS: We used data from a prospective observational study involving 8170 members of a birth cohort from Great Britain born in 1970. Data included mental ability scores at age 10 years and responses to inquiries about alcohol intake and problems at age 30 years. RESULTS: After adjustment for potential mediating and confounding factors, cohort members with higher childhood mental ability scores had an increased prevalence of problem drinking in adulthood. This association was stronger among women (odds ratio [OR](1 SD increase in ability) = 1.38; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.16, 1.64) than men (OR(1 SD increase in ability) = 1.17; CI = 1.04, 1.28; P for interaction = .004). Childhood mental ability was also related to a higher average intake of alcohol and to drinking more frequently. Again, these gradients were stronger among women than among men. CONCLUSIONS: In this large-scale cohort study, higher childhood mental ability was related to alcohol problems and higher alcohol intake in adult life. These unexpected results warrant examination in other studies.

PMID: 18235070 [PubMed - in process]

On another subject but related:

Interesting to me, in looking through some of Batty's prior research, he found in 2005 that intelligence (in a Danish cohort study) is inversely related to psychiatric disorders later in life. So the smart ones are less likely to go crazy, or maybe just less likely to end up hospitalized for it. Maybe because they are self-medicating with booze, huh? From: The British Journal of Psychiatry (2005) 187: 180-181


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 1st, 2008 02:43 am (UTC)
Lol. I was born in 1970. I wonder what the risk is for someone with an IQ in the mid-130's. I do love getting wasted. Still. I don't much, but the pull is there.

Maybe it's realizing that being smart doesn't translate into success in other parts of life. Being built up in school and told that success is immanent, but it just wasn't.That's probably just me, though. Damn you Gifted and Talented programs!
Dec. 1st, 2008 06:03 am (UTC)
You are like the cherry on top of all the research I can dig up!! I do think that being taught that the world is your oyster just because you score well on standardized tests can be another curse, just like those gifted/talented tracks... it's an incomplete picture of what it takes to succeed.
Feb. 23rd, 2009 09:26 am (UTC)
The Colony Club in Soho has been a watering hole for hard-drinking creative types since it was founded by Muriel Belcher in the late 1940s. It is a reasonable bet that her confidants - Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Jeffrey and Bruce Bernard, Michael Andrews, Eduardo Paolozzi and other regulars from the art and entertainment world - would have had high IQs. Some members may have been nightmare clients for their bank managers, exasperating husbands, wives or lovers, but no one would doubt their talents, originality and intellectual ability.

Research has now shown a link between high childhood IQ and an adult enthusiasm for alcohol that leads in some cases to problem drinking.

Parents may be aware that the easiest children to have around the house, and those who are also the most likely to have a predictable, comfortable lifestyle when adults, are those with a slightly aboveaverage intelligence, neither too clever, nor stupid.

Most parents would be proud to be told by a teacher that their child has a higher IQ than his or her peers. It would not occur to anybody that there might be an association between that high IQ at the age of 10 and an enthusiasm for the drinking culture, leading occasionally to a problematic excessive alcohol intake.

Alcoholism Information (
Feb. 23rd, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks Terrina.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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