Do Smarter People Drink More?

Most people have probably heard the notion that smart people drink more. However, that’s an extremely vague statement that’s probably not 100% true in the broad sense, so I decided to find out the truth. Throughout high school and my first year of college, my experiences showed me the opposite of this idea. I tended to see the less intelligent people drinking heavily and the smarter kids controlling their intake, but a handful of kids from my personal experience couldn’t debunk this idea right away.

I came across an article by Jordan Rosenfeld where she outlined the results of 5 different experiments which all tested this topic. She explains the first experiment which showed that woman in the UK who attended college drank 86% more than those who didn’t (same age). The experiment clearly showed a strong correlation between level of education and alcoholic consumption, but it left room for many 3rd variables to effect the results. For example, in a college environment, you are more exposed to alcohol than you would be if you didn’t attend a university. This scenario could lead to a false positive result as it may not be the intelligence of the person that is affecting their drinking habits.

Rosenfeld went on to discuss the second experiment in Finland where sets of twins were studied throughout their childhood. The results showed that the twin with the best developed speech at age 12, could prove them to be smarter, drank more at the age of 16. While this experiment payed more attention to the measurement of knowledge, the result of increased drinking could still be due to a 3rd variable or chance. Also, the measurement of speech development doesn’t directly relate to intelligence. Therefore, these measurement which correlate to alcohol consumption could not be related entirely to what we are looking to measure, which is intelligence.



The 3rd experiment Rosenfeld discusses relates college education to alcohol consumption later in life. The experiment showed that only about 35% of non college graduates drank while about 68% of college graduates did. While graduating college often improves your intelligence as opposed to not attending college, this still is not a very accurate measure of intelligence. Some of the most intelligent and successful people did not graduate college, like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. This experiment seems to be a step in the wrong direction as the 2nd experiment included more detailed intelligence measurements.

The 4th experiment offers a much more efficient approach for relating intelligence and drinking habits by measuring IQ’s of 50,000 Swiss males aged 18-22. First off, this showed that those who didn’t drink alcohol at all had the lowest IQ’s. While this doesn’t prove causation, it certainly helps towards the notion that intelligence and drinking are causally related. The main discovery from this experiment is that men with the highest IQ’s drink in moderation, which is known to be the smartest and healthiest route. So after all of this research, my answer has yet to be answered. Scientists have yet to find some serious proof that intelligence causes an increase in alcohol consumption. However, based on these experiments, we can see a pretty significant correlation between attending college and drinking habits. We can also see that there is strong evidence showing those who don’t drink at all have the lowest IQs. This is something that needs to see more experiments. However, these experiment must be detailed experiments which will effectively test intelligence and increased alcoholic consumption without the possibility of 3rd variables. As for me, I will observe how my college experience and growth of intelligence will affect my alcohol consumption in the future.


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