Early Development of Intellectual Skills Linked To Heavy Drinking in Adulthood, Study


Children with faster verbal development are more likely to become heavy drinkers as adults, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Researchers arrived at the conclusion after studying over 3,000 healthy identical or fraternal twins from Finland, focusing on their verbal development and drinking behavior as adults.

They found that the twin that spoke or read first was twice as likely to drink more at age 18 and consume drugs when compared to their sibling.

"We found that differences in language development in early childhood and school age predict alcohol-use behaviors in adolescence and up to young adulthood," study corresponding author Antti Latvala, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, said.

Apart from alcohol consumption, researchers also found that the verbally-talented siblings were four times more likely to get drunk at least once a month compared to their less intelligent counterparts.

"Specifically, we found that better childhood verbal development -- as indicated by an earlier age of speaking words, learning to read earlier or having better expressive language skills in school age -- was often predictive of a higher likelihood of engaging in more frequent drinking and intoxicating across adolescence," Latvala said.

They also discovered that the ones that learnt to read and talk faster were more approachable and hence had more friends than the twins with lower verbal ability. This made the former more outgoing and susceptible to social drinking.

"People have this impression that intelligence is somehow related to being introverted and bookwormish," Latvala said. "But if you look at these large studies they definitely find this association with sensation-seeking and seeking different kind of experiences. [They're] trying to learn new things. It could be related to the nature of intelligence."

Although fast learners drank more frequently, it wasn't out of control and they were not diagnosed with any alcohol disorder as intelligence served as the medium of self-control.

"It is important to realize that experimenting with alcohol and drinking to intoxication -- although illegal and not without risks -- is very common among adolescents and can be regarded as normative behavior in many countries," Latvala said.

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