WEDNESDAY, July 15, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Intelligence appears to be one reason why poor people are more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, Scottish researchers say.
They analyzed data on 4,289 former U.S. soldiers, and found that IQ accounted for more than 20 percent of the difference in heart disease and stroke deaths between people of high and low socioeconomic status. This was in addition to well-established cardiovascular disease risk factors such as obesity and smoking.
The study appears in the July 15 issue of the European Heart Journal.
"We already know that socioeconomically disadvantaged people have worse health and tend to die earlier from conditions such as heart disease, cancer and accidents," study leader Dr. David Batty, an epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council's Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, said in a news release.
"Environmental exposures and health-related behaviors, such as smoking and diet and physical activity, can explain some of this difference, but not all of it. This raises the possibility that, as yet, unmeasured psychological factors need to be considered. One of these is intelligence or cognitive function, commonly referred to as IQ. This measures a person's ability to reason and problem-solve. IQ is strongly related to socioeconomic status," Batty explained.
He said the findings suggest that "public health messages on things like diet, exercise and smoking could be simplified. At present, the messages can be quite complicated, even contradictory, and they lack clarity. For instance, we often read about how some types of alcohol are good for you while others, or even the same ones, are not. These messages can be difficult to interpret, even by knowledgeable people."
Furthermore, he recommends broad efforts to reduce socioeconomic inequalities. "Initiatives aimed at raising living standards and education of the most disadvantaged families with children could potentially make a difference to those children's health and well-being later in life," Batty said.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart disease risk factors.