London: Intelligent men and women are far more likely to drink heavily, a new study by the UK’s Medical Research Council has discovered.
The stress of working in a pressurised environment is a factor, particularly for businesswomen in male-dominated professions, says the report which is published in the American Journal of Public Health.
They now suspect, however, that the stressful jobs of high- flying professionals drive them to drink. Intelligent women may be particularly susceptible if they are struggling to do well in male-dominated professions.
The research, led by David Batty of the MRC’s social and public health sciences unit at Glasgow University, says: “An explanation might be that success in the workplace requires, in some circumstances, a willingness to drink frequently and to excess in social situations.”
A group of 8,170 men and women born in Britain during one week in 1970 were studied. Their mental ability at age 10 was compared with information about their alcohol consumption and drink problems at age 30.
The academics found that men and women with higher childhood mental ability scores had higher rates of problem drinking in adulthood. The increased risk of drink problems was higher for intelligent women than men.
The study found that men and women who confessed to drinking most days had the highest childhood mental ability scores, whereas those who reported that they never had alcohol had the lowest mental ability scores.
The proportion of women with a history of alcohol problems was highest among women with professional and managerial jobs. The study found that 47% of men and 22% of women were drinking in excess of the recommended limits of 21 units a week for men and 14 units a week for women.
The government is investigating how to deal with Britain’s heavy drinking culture, including the possibility of restricting shops’ cut-price promotions of alcohol. Another problem is middle-class adults drinking at home.
Alcohol-related deaths continue to rise in Britain. In 2006, the figure increased to 12.9 deaths per 100,000 in 2005 to 13.4 in 2006 (Office for National Statistics) with a doubling in the period from 1991 and 2006.