Brainpower and Boozing

In 20 years, I'll drink you under the table.

Earlier this week, a colleague forwarded me a news article from The Week magazine with the incredulous sounding title, “Why do smart kids grow up to be heavier drinkers?

The article cited two studies, one from the U.S. and the other from Britain, suggesting “a correlation between intelligence and a thirst for alcohol. What’s the connection?” the article then asks. After first replying that everyone who received this article must have, of course, been a brilliant child, I took a bit closer look at both studies and more importantly, a few theories possibly explaining this apparent correlation between childhood smarts and adult boozing.

The 2010 studies – the National Child Development Study (U.K.) and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (U.S.) – both concluded, according to analysis by Liz Day at Discovery News, that “more intelligent children…grew up to drink alcohol more frequently and in greater quantities than less intelligent children.” That’s a nice fact, but it’s more important to ask: why?

The Week’s article summarizes three possible explanations, all of which you can read in the article. I want to focus instead on their third explanation, which is, in my opinion, the most truthful and the most fun to discuss. The explanation, according to Food & Wine Blog.com: “drinking is the only way to deal with morons.”

More specifically, “we booze so we can tolerate everyone else. Where before we tend to take people’s responses at literal face value, now we can relax a bit, stop being so anal with semantics and let comments slide a bit… Of course, when we sober up all this openness is gone, but hey, that’s why we drink more. To normalize ourselves into tolerating the normally droll and mundane conversations and viewpoints of the ‘normal’ or ‘dull’ people of the world (to use the original study’s terminology).”

I think that’s as fair of an explanation as any. Sure, you could point to evolutionary reasons intelligent people drink more, as Psychology Today did, but that’s something a “normal” or “dull” person would say – exactly the kind of person I can interact with only when drinking. Funny how that works out.

Published in: on April 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm  Comments Off  
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