Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jepicomhJournal of Epidemiology and Community HealthVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Epidemiol Community Health. 2004 August; 58(8): 674–679.
PMCID: PMC1732844

Cognitive performance in childhood and early adult illness: a prospective cohort study


Study objective: To evaluate whether cognitive performance in childhood is an early determinant of adult illness.

Design: Prospective cohort study covering over 30 years.

Setting: Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

Participants: 633 people ages 30–39 followed up since birth as part of the Providence cohort of the national collaborative perinatal project.

Main results: Higher cognitive performance at age 7 was related to a significantly reduced risk of serious illness in adulthood, OR = 0.65 (95%CI: 0.47 to 0.89) for a one standard deviation (15 point) increase in IQ score. This association was independent of both parental socioeconomic status and participant's attained level of education.

Conclusions: General cognitive performance may be an important and informative early determinant of adult health. Further evaluation of this association and mechanisms linking cognitive performance and health may provide new and innovative strategies to improve disease management and reduce morbidity.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (108K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • McCormick MC. The outcomes of very low birth weight infants: are we asking the right questions? Pediatrics. 1997 Jun;99(6):869–876. [PubMed]
  • Smith GD, Hart C, Blane D, Gillis C, Hawthorne V. Lifetime socioeconomic position and mortality: prospective observational study. BMJ. 1997 Feb 22;314(7080):547–552. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Halfon Neal, Hochstein Miles. Life course health development: an integrated framework for developing health, policy, and research. Milbank Q. 2002;80(3):433–iii. [PubMed]
  • Bassuk SS, Wypij D, Berkman LF. Cognitive impairment and mortality in the community-dwelling elderly. Am J Epidemiol. 2000 Apr 1;151(7):676–688. [PubMed]
  • Whalley LJ, Deary IJ. Longitudinal cohort study of childhood IQ and survival up to age 76. BMJ. 2001 Apr 7;322(7290):819–819. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Hart Carole L, Taylor Michelle D, Davey Smith George, Whalley Lawrence J, Starr John M, Hole David J, Wilson Valerie, Deary Ian J. Childhood IQ, social class, deprivation, and their relationships with mortality and morbidity risk in later life: prospective observational study linking the Scottish Mental Survey 1932 and the Midspan studies. Psychosom Med. 2003 Sep-Oct;65(5):877–883. [PubMed]
  • Osler M, Andersen A-MN, Due P, Lund R, Damsgaard MT, Holstein BE. Socioeconomic position in early life, birth weight, childhood cognitive function, and adult mortality. A longitudinal study of Danish men born in 1953. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2003 Sep;57(9):681–686. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Grunau Ruth Eckstein, Whitfield Michael F, Davis Cynthia. Pattern of learning disabilities in children with extremely low birth weight and broadly average intelligence. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002 Jun;156(6):615–620. [PubMed]
  • Polloway EA, Patton JR, Smith TE, Buck GH. Mental retardation and learning disabilities: conceptual and applied issues. J Learn Disabil. 1997 May-Jun;30(3):297–345. [PubMed]
  • Madans JH, Kleinman JC, Cox CS, Barbano HE, Feldman JJ, Cohen B, Finucane FF, Cornoni-Huntley J. 10 years after NHANES I: report of initial followup, 1982-84. Public Health Rep. 1986 Sep-Oct;101(5):465–473. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Myrianthopoulos NC, French KS. An application of the U.S. Bureau of the Census socioeconomic index to a large, diversified patient population. Soc Sci Med. 1968 Sep;2(3):283–299. [PubMed]
  • Richards M, Hardy R, Kuh D, Wadsworth ME. Birth weight and cognitive function in the British 1946 birth cohort: longitudinal population based study. BMJ. 2001 Jan 27;322(7280):199–203. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Starr JM, Deary IJ, Lemmon H, Whalley LJ. Mental ability age 11 years and health status age 77 years. Age Ageing. 2000 Nov;29(6):523–528. [PubMed]
  • Marmot M, Ryff CD, Bumpass LL, Shipley M, Marks NF. Social inequalities in health: next questions and converging evidence. Soc Sci Med. 1997 Mar;44(6):901–910. [PubMed]
  • Davey Smith G, Hart C, Hole D, MacKinnon P, Gillis C, Watt G, Blane D, Hawthorne V. Education and occupational social class: which is the more important indicator of mortality risk? J Epidemiol Community Health. 1998 Mar;52(3):153–160. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Heliövaara M, Aromaa A, Klaukka T, Knekt P, Joukamaa M, Impivaara O. Reliability and validity of interview data on chronic diseases. The Mini-Finland Health Survey. J Clin Epidemiol. 1993 Feb;46(2):181–191. [PubMed]
  • KRUEGER DE. Measurement of prevalence of chronic disease by household interviews and clinical evaluations. Am J Public Health Nations Health. 1957 Aug;47(8):953–960. [PubMed]
  • Hart CL, Deary IJ, Taylor MD, MacKinnon PL, Smith G Davey, Whalley LJ, Wilson V, Hole DJ, Starr JM. The Scottish mental survey 1932 linked to the Midspan studies: a prospective investigation of childhood intelligence and future health. Public Health. 2003 May;117(3):187–195. [PubMed]
  • Kelman HR, Thomas C, Kennedy GJ, Cheng J. Cognitive impairment and mortality in older community residents. Am J Public Health. 1994 Aug;84(8):1255–1260. [PubMed]
  • Taylor MD, Hart CL, Davey Smith G, Starr JM, Hole DJ, Whalley LJ, Wilson V, Deary IJ. Childhood mental ability and smoking cessation in adulthood: prospective observational study linking the Scottish Mental Survey 1932 and the Midspan studies. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2003 Jun;57(6):464–465. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Lachman ME, Weaver SL. The sense of control as a moderator of social class differences in health and well-being. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998 Mar;74(3):763–773. [PubMed]
  • Chou KL, Chi I. Stressful life events and depressive symptoms: social support and sense of control as mediators or moderators? Int J Aging Hum Dev. 2001;52(2):155–171. [PubMed]
  • Power Chris, Manor Orly, Li Leah. Are inequalities in height underestimated by adult social position? Effects of changing social structure and height selection in a cohort study. BMJ. 2002 Jul 20;325(7356):131–134. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Walker M, Shaper AG, Wannamethee G. Height and social class in middle-aged British men. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1988 Sep;42(3):299–303. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group