London: A lower IQ is associated with greater and riskier drinking among young adult men, a new study has found. Although several studies have shown an association between intelligence and various health-related outcomes, the research on cognitive abilities and alcohol-related problems has been inconsistent. Sara Sjolund, a doctoral student at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden and her colleagues analysed data collected from 49,321 Swedish males born during 1949 to 1951 and who were conscripted for Swedish military service from 1969 to 1971.
IQ results were available from tests performed at conscription, and questionnaires also given at conscription provided data on total alcohol intake (consumed grams of alcohol/week) and pattern of drinking, as well as medical, childhood and adolescent conditions, and tobacco use.
Adjustments were made for socio-economic position as a child, psychiatric symptoms and emotional stability, and the father’s alcohol habits. “We found that lower results on IQ tests in Swedish adolescent men are associated with a higher consumption of alcohol, measured in both terms of total intake and binge drinking,” said Sjolund. “It may be that a higher IQ results in healthier lifestyle choices. Suggested explanations for the association between IQ and different health outcomes, could be childhood conditions, which could influence both IQ and health, or that a socio-economic position as an adult mediates the
association,” said Sjolund.
“By taking into account as little as four measured characteristics of the men, including their backgrounds, the authors seem to be able to explain a large part of the association between IQ and heavy drinking,” said Daniel Falkstedt, assistant professor in the department of public health sciences at Karolinska Institutet.
“I think this may be a main message of this large cohort study: poor performance on IQ tests tend to go along with other disadvantages, for instance, poorer social background and emotional problems, which may explain the association with risky alcohol consumption.
“In reality, other differences of importance are likely to exist among the men, which could further explain the IQ-alcohol association,” Falkstedt said. The results will be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.