Childhood IQ and cardiovascular disease in adulthood: prospective observational study linking the Scottish Mental Survey 1932 and the Midspan studies

Soc Sci Med. 2004 Nov;59(10):2131-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.03.016.


This study investigated the influence of childhood IQ on the relationships between risk factors and cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke in adulthood. Participants were from the Midspan prospective cohort studies which were conducted on adults in Scotland in the 1970s. Data on risk factors were collected from a questionnaire and at a screening examination, and participants were followed up for 25 years for hospital admissions and mortality. 938 Midspan participants were successfully matched with their age 11 IQ from the Scottish Mental Survey 1932, in which 1921-born children attending schools in Scotland took a cognitive ability test. Childhood IQ was negatively correlated with diastolic and systolic blood pressure, and positively correlated with height and respiratory function in adulthood. For each of CVD, CHD and stroke, defined as either a hospital admission or death, there was an increased relative rate per standard deviation decrease (15 points) in childhood IQ of 1.11 (95% confidence interval 1.01-1.23), 1.16 (1.03-1.32) and 1.10 (0.88-1.36), respectively. With events divided into those first occurring before and those first occurring after the age of 65, the relationships between childhood IQ and CVD, CHD and stroke were only seen before age 65 and not after age 65. Blood pressure, height, respiratory function and smoking were associated with CVD events. Relationships were stronger in the early compared to the later period for smoking and FEV1, and stronger in the later compared to the earlier period for blood pressure. Adjustment for childhood IQ had small attenuating effects on the risk factor-CVD relationship before age 65 and no effects after age 65. Adjustment for risk factors attenuated the childhood IQ-CVD relationship by a small amount before age 65. Childhood IQ was associated with CVD risk factors and events and can be considered an important new risk factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / classification*
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Stroke / epidemiology*
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires