Objectives: We examined the potential relation of mental ability test scores at age 10 years with alcohol problems and alcohol intake at age 30 years.
Methods: We used data from a prospective observational study involving 8170 members of a birth cohort from Great Britain born in 1970. Data included mental ability scores at age 10 years and responses to inquiries about alcohol intake and problems at age 30 years.
Results: After adjustment for potential mediating and confounding factors, cohort members with higher childhood mental ability scores had an increased prevalence of problem drinking in adulthood. This association was stronger among women (odds ratio [OR](1 SD increase in ability) = 1.38; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.16, 1.64) than men (OR(1 SD increase in ability) = 1.17; CI = 1.04, 1.28; P for interaction = .004). Childhood mental ability was also related to a higher average intake of alcohol and to drinking more frequently. Again, these gradients were stronger among women than among men.
Conclusions: In this large-scale cohort study, higher childhood mental ability was related to alcohol problems and higher alcohol intake in adult life. These unexpected results warrant examination in other studies.