IQ and Alcohol-Related Diseases and Deaths: A Link?

Is there a link between IQ in childhood and risk of IQ and alcohol-related diseases and deaths later in life? This was the issue studied by researchers.

The Study

Researchers studied 21,809 Swedish men and women. They were born in either 1948 or 1953. Their intelligence quotient (IQ) was measured in school at age 13.

The database of the “Evaluation Through Follow-up” program was used to track the persons for at least 40 years.Beginning in 1971, alcohol-related diseases and deaths were recorded.


The researchers found a large inverse relationship between IQ at age 13 and both alcohol-related diseases and deaths. That is, the lower the IQ, the greater the risk of alcohol-related diseases or death.

alcohol-related diseasesThe attained social and economic status (SES) at age 32 was very important. It’s a major factor in explaining the link between IQ and alcohol-related diseases and deaths. This was true for both men and women. The effect of IQ in childhood may be largely through its effect on later factors. These include education, occupation, and income.

There are various possible explanations for why lower SES persons tended to have more alcohol-related diseases and deaths. They include different drinking patterns, such as binge versus moderate drinking. Poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking, illicit drug use, and obesity. Less access to high quality health care. And the list goes on.

The SES of persons at age 32 had a much stronger effect on health outcomes than did the SES of the parents. Thus, people are not fated to suffering alcohol-related disease and death because of accidents of birth.

It’s also important to note that there are many weaknesses in the use of IQ tests to measure intelligence.

IQ and Alcohol-Related Diseases and Death


Source: IQ and alcohol-related diseases and death
    • Sjolund, S, et al. IQ and alcohol-related morbidity and among Swedish men and women.  J Epi Comm Health69, 858-864.
    • This site gives no advice. Please see your doctor for drinking and disease questions.