The British Medical Research Council and American Journal of Public Health have connected IQ and alcoholism, suggesting gifted kids are at risk for later alcohol abuse.
According to the October 2008 American Journal of Public Health, "higher childhood mental ability was related to alcohol problems and higher alcohol intake in adult life." Although more research will be done in the area of childhood IQ and adult alcohol use, the AJPH should be of interest to people working with gifted students.
Results of the Study
Researchers G. David Batty, Ian J. Deary, Ingrid Schoon, Carol Emslie, Kate Hunt, and Catharine R. Gale used the 1970 British Cohort Study to track alcohol usage of 8,170 British 10 year-olds. The children were born in 1970, had their IQs tested in at age 10, and participated in follow up research in 2004 and 2008.
The study was published as "Childhood Mental Ability and Adult Alcohol Intake and Alcohol Problems: The 1970 British Cohort Study", and the authors explain how they found statistical links between childhood IQ and increased drinking. For every 15 point increase of measured IQ, there was an average increase of 1.27 times for alcohol abuse, with women more likely than men.
Considerations from Yesterday and Today
The children of this study have differences from today's gifted students. It is unlikely that these students had as much drug prevention education, and gifted education programs were less prevalent than they are today. However, the large number of people involved in the study, the similarity between the 15 point jumps for both genders, and the reaction to the results of the study suggest that the parents and teachers working with gifted children should be prepared to tackle some serious issues as gifted children grow into adulthood.
Possible Factors linking IQ and Adult Drinking
The study was adjusted for socio-economic factors, so the gender distinction stands out strongly. Women were more likely than men to develop alcohol problems. It is possible that people with higher IQs end up in careers that are more stressful, and that stress often leads to drinking. It is also possible that people with high IQs end up in careers that require a lot of social drinking, and that such drinking might get out of control. The study noted that, "the proportion of women with a history of alcohol problems was highest among women from the professional and managerial classes.”
Does Too Much Thinking Lead to Drinking?
In 2003, the Journal of Secondary Education examined "Depressive Disorder in Highly Gifted Adolescents", suggesting that, "highly gifted teens experience depression and that they are capable of disguising even the most severe symptoms." Another potential factor that could lead to drinking would be unmanaged depression, as alcohol is commonly used as self-medication or escape. Creating personal belief statements can help students focus on positive forces to avoid pitfalls of depression.
Implications for Gifted Education Teachers
Many schools have classes that deal with the health dangers presented by drugs and alcohol abuse. If teachers of gifted students are confident that their students will get such instruction and make healthy adjustments, it might be beneficial for teachers to focus on the possible factors that lead to alcohol abuse. Gifted students and their parents should be educated about:
Originally posted to Suite101 and TableAus, the Australian Mensa Magazine, in 2008.
Ally Sharp is a teacher, writer and editor, and technology trainer.