Brainy teenagers in Great Britain who have high test scores are less likely to smoke cigarettes, but have a higher risk of drinking alcohol and smoking pot compared to teens who have lower scores, a new study says.
While some researchers believe that smart students may only have a propensity to experiment, authors James Williams and Gareth Hagger-Johnson say these tendencies may continue until adulthood, CNN reports.
The researchers from University College London say,
Our research provides evidence against the theory that these teens give up as they grow up.
England saw a drop in the number of 14-year-olds who admitted to smoking and drinking at the end of 2014. Ten years before in 2004, 12% of teens surveyed said that they smoked cigarettes all the time, 23% said they consumed alcohol weekly, and 17% had tried marijuana. In 2014, the figures were at 4%, 6% and 9%, respectively.
Williams and Hagger-Johnson surveyed over 6,000 students from both private and public schools across England. They used questionnaires to track each student’s use of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis from the age of 13 or 14, until they reached 19 or 20. They then used national test scores that the students had at the age of 11 to rank all the students’ academic performance.
During their early teenage years, students who had the highest scores were less likely to smoke cigarettes and more likely to consume alcohol, and were slightly more likely to say that they had smoked pot.
During their late teens, students with the highest scores were more than twice as likely to regularly drink, but were also less likely to binge-drink. During the same period, the smart students proved twice as likely to use cannabis regularly, and 50% more likely to use it occasionally.
According to the researchers, one explanation is that, “higher-ability adolescents are more open to try cannabis but are initially cautious of illegal substances in early adolescence as they are more aware of the immediate and long-term repercussions that breaking the law might incur.”
They added, “Cognitive ability is also associated with openness to new experiences and higher levels of boredom due to a lack of mental stimulation in school.” This use might also be because of “parental influence, since parents with high cognitive ability and socioeconomic status are known to drink alcohol more regularly.”
The study was published in the British Medical Journal Open.