Health and national IQ

2 Feb

One of the most frustrating aspects of debates over the nature of intelligence is the failure to distinguish between individual differences and group differences. While we have good evidence that individual differences in IQ within the same cultural context are meaningful, attempts to extrapolate individual differences to characterizations of entire groups go well beyond what we know. Between groups there are dramatic differences in histories and environments that make group comparisons questionable.

Here is a study published in the journal Learning and Individual Differences titled “The burden of disease and the IQ of nations.” The abstract follows:

 “The relationship between the conditions of health of the population and the average intelligence quotients (IQs) was examined in a sample of 138 countries. Health conditions were proxied by DALY rates for infectious and parasitic diseases, perinatal and maternal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies. Results show how the burden of considered diseases – and, particularly, of perinatal and maternal – is strongly and negatively related to national IQs even when income, education, and temperature or latitude are controlled for. The effect of education on national IQs is significant, but lesser than that of health. The burden of disease is a strong predictor of international differences in average cognitive abilities. Investment in health in poor countries, and particularly in maternal and neonatal health, would have long-term economic returns by reducing international inequalities.”

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