Do Intelligent People Drink More Alcohol?

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The next time you’re inclined to enjoy an extra glass of wine, consider that it may be a reflection of your intelligence.

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That is one of the findings from data from the National Child Development Study in the United Kingdom and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the United States.

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Childhood intelligence, measured before the age of 16, was categorized in five cognitive classes, ranging from “very dull,” “dull,” “normal,” “bright” and “very bright.”

The Americans were revisited seven years later. The British youths, on the other hand, were followed in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Researchers measured their drinking habits as the participants became older.

More intelligent children in both studies grew up to drink alcohol more frequently and in greater quantities than less intelligent children. In the Brits’ case, “very bright” children grew up to consume nearly eight-tenths of a standard deviation more alcohol than their “very dull” cohorts.

Researchers controlled for demographic variables — such as marital status, parents’ education, earnings, childhood social class and more — that may have also affected adult drinking. Still, the findings held true: Smarter kids were drinking more as adults.

So why do smarter kids end up drinking more? Hypotheses abound.

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Psychology Today takes an evolutionary approach. They argue that drinkable alcohol is a relatively novel invention of 10,000 years ago. Our ancestors had previously gotten their alcohol kick through eating rotten fruits, so more intelligent humans may be more likely to choose modern alcoholic beverages.

Although increased alcohol consumption could be a reflection of exceptional brainpower, drinking more will certainly not make you any more intelligent than you already are.