Lower IQ Linked to Increased Drinking in Young Adult Men

First Posted: Feb 23, 2015 08:56 AM EST

It turns out that there may be a link between lower IQ and increased drinking among young adult men. While previous research has suggested a link between intelligence and health outcomes, this latest study shows that poor IQ does have something to do with riskier drinking.

"Previous results in this area have been inconsistent," said Sara Sjolund, one of the researchers, in a news release. "In two studies where the CAGE questionnaire-a method of screening for alcoholism-was used, a higher cognitive ability was found to be associated with a higher risk for drinking problems. Conversely, less risk has been found when looking at outcomes such as, for example, International Classification of Diseases diagnoses of alcoholism, alcohol abuse, and dependence."

The researchers analyzed data collected from Swedish men born during 1949 and 1951 who were conscripted for Swedish military service from 1969 to 1971. IQ results were available from tests performed at conscription, and questionnaires given out at conscription also provided data on total alcohol intake and patterns of drinking.

"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."

The findings reveal a bit more about drinking behaviors. That said, it's important to be careful about applying this pattern to women, since their level of consumption and patterns of drinking likely differ in comparison to men.

"I think a higher intelligence may give some advantage in relation to lifestyle choices," said Daniel Falkstedt, one of the researchers, in a news release. "However, I think it is very important to remember that intelligence differences already existing in childhood and adolescence may put people at an advantage or disadvantage and may generate subsequent differences in experiences, and accumulation of such experiences over many years."

The findings are published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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