Childhood IQ and social factors on smoking behaviour, lung function and smoking-related outcomes in adulthood: Linking the Scottish Mental Survey 1932 and the Midspan studies


Correspondence should be addressed to Professor Ian J Deary, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ (e-mail:


Objective To investigate the associations of childhood IQ and adult social factors, and smoking behaviour, lung function (forced expiratory volume in one second; FEV1), and smoking-related outcomes in adulthood.

Design Retrospective cohort study.

Method Participants were from the Midspan prospective studies conducted on Scottish adults in the 1970s. The sample consisted of 938 Midspan participants born in 1921 who were successfully matched with their cognitive ability test results on the Scottish Mental Survey 1932.

Results Structural equation modelling showed that age 11 IQ was not directly associated with smoking consumption, but that IQ and adult social class had indirect effects on smoking consumption via deprivation category. The influence of IQ on FEV1 was partly indirect via social class. Gender influenced smoking consumption and also IQ and social class. There was a 21% higher risk of having a smoking-related hospital admission, cancer, or death during 25 years of follow-up for each standard deviation disadvantage in IQ. Adjustment for adult social class, deprivation category, and smoking reduced the association to 10%.

Conclusion Childhood IQ was associated with social factors which influenced lung function in adulthood, but was not associated directly with smoking consumption. In future studies, it is important to consider other pathways which may account for variance in the link between childhood IQ and health in later life.