Study: Smart People Drink, Smoke, Use Drugs

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By Ronald Bailey

Researchers find in a new study published in the Review of General Psychology that people with higher IQs are more likely to try out and enjoy mind-altering sutbstances than their dimmer compatriots. As the abstract reports:

Why do some individuals choose to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and use illegal drugs while others do not? The origin of individual preferences and values is one of the remaining theoretical questions in social and behavioral sciences. The Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis suggests that more intelligent individuals may be more likely to acquire and espouse evolutionarily novel values than less intelligent individuals. Consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs is evolutionarily novel, so the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis would predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely to consume these substances.

Analyses of two large, nationally representative, and prospectively longitudinal data from the United Kingdom and the United States partly support the prediction. More intelligent children, both in the United Kingdom and the United States, are more likely to grow up to consume more alcohol. More intelligent American children are more likely to grow up to consume more tobacco, while more intelligent British children are more likely to grow up to consume more illegal drugs.

Based on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Psychology Today also reported:

The following graph shows the association between childhood intelligence, measured in junior high and high school, and adult alcohol consumption seven years later in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) data in the United States.  The association is clear and nearly monotonic.   The more intelligent Americans are in their childhood, the more alcohol they consume as young adults.

It is important to note that both income and education, as well as childhood social class and parents' education, are controlled in multiple regression analyses of these data from the US and the UK.  It means that it is not because more intelligent people occupy higher-paying, more important jobs that require them to socialize and drink with their business associates that they drink more alcohol.  It appears to be their intelligence itself, rather than correlates of intelligence, that inclines them to drink more.

I suspect that many H&R readers already thought that this might be the case.


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