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Intelligence in Early Adulthood and Subsequent Hospitalization for Mental Disorders

Gale, Catharine R.a; Batty, G Davidb,c; Tynelius, Perd; Deary, Ian J.c; Rasmussen, Finnd

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181c17da8
Mental Illness: Original Article

Background: Lower intelligence is a risk factor for several specific mental disorders. It is unclear whether it is a risk factor for all mental disorders, and whether it might be associated with illness severity. We examined the relation of premorbid intelligence with risk of hospital admission and with total admission rates, for the whole range of mental disorders.

Methods: Participants were 1,049,663 Swedish men who took tests of intelligence on conscription into military service and were followed up with regard to hospital admissions for mental disorder, for a mean of 22.6 years. International Classification of Diseases diagnoses were recorded at discharge from the hospital.

Results: Risk of hospital admission for all categories of mental disorder rose with each point decrease in the 9-point IQ score. For a standard deviation decrease in IQ, age-adjusted hazard ratios (95% confidence interval) were 1.60 for schizophrenia (1.55–1.65), 1.49 for other nonaffective psychoses (1.45–1.53), 1.50 for mood disorders (1.47–1.51), 1.51 for neurotic disorders (1.48–1.54), 1.60 for adjustment disorders (1.56–1.64), 1.75 for personality disorders (1.70–1.80), 1.75 for alcohol-related (1.73–1.77), and 1.85 for other substance-use disorders (1.82–1.88). Lower intelligence was also associated with greater comorbidity. Associations changed little on adjustment for potential confounders. Men with lower intelligence had higher total admission rates for mental disorders, a possible marker of clinical severity.

Conclusions: Lower intelligence is a risk factor for the whole range of mental disorders and for illness severity.


From the aMRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom; bMRC Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom; cDepartment of Psychology, Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom; and dDepartment of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.

Submitted 16 February 2009; accepted 28 May 2009; posted 10 November 2009.

David Batty is a UK Wellcome Trust Fellow (WBS U.1300.00.006.00012.01).

The University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology is supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council, as part of the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Initiative. The Medical Research Council (MRC) Social and Public Health Sciences Unit receives funding from the MRC and the Chief Scientist Office at the Scottish Government Health Directorates. Also, supported by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (to F.R.).

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Correspondence: Finn Rasmussen, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Norrbacka, SE-17176 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.