A recent study from Sweden suggests a distinct link between risky drinking behaviors and low IQ in young men. However, researchers caution about making surmises from this information, indicating the lower IQ scores may lead to heavy drinking, rather than alcohol consumption leading to reduced cognitive ability. Still, the data is the first of its kind to show a consistent association between “cognitive ability and alcohol-related problems,” according to one of the study authors.
About the Study
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden looked at records from nearly 50,000 men to collect their data. All of the men were born between 1949 and 1951 and served in the Swedish military between 1969 and 1971. IQ tests were given when they were conscripted for military duty, and alcohol intake and drinking patterns were also carefully evaluated at this time. Researchers analyzed the conscription records of these young men to determine a possible link, adjusting data for childhood socioeconomic status, psychiatric symptoms and alcohol habits of their fathers.
Researchers found that lower cognitive ability consistently correlated with heavy drinking and risky alcohol habits, including total alcohol intake and incidences of binge drinking. Researchers also noted that other factors appeared to weigh in on the likelihood to drink heavily, including socioeconomic status.
“In this study of a general population, intelligence probably comes before the behavior, in this case, alcohol consumption and a pattern of drinking in late adolescence,” Daniel Falkstedt, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, was reported as saying about the study. He added that it is unlikely alcohol consumption would cause cognitive impairment in younger men as a general rule.
Background and Behavior
The researchers acknowledge that difference in intelligence levels during childhood and early adulthood can put individuals at a direct social and economic disadvantage, which might lead to riskier drinking patterns. Researchers also noted studies indicating suicide rates were higher in individuals with lower IQs. Those with lower IQs may experience frustrations and challenges in life that lead them to those drinking habits.
Researchers were quick to point out that results of the Swedish study could change, based on different cultures or locations. They also warned that the results for young men should not be applied to women, since women’s drinking habits tend to be different from men’s. In fact, a 2010 study suggested that higher-educated women tended to be heavier drinkers than their less educated counterparts.
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