Health returns to cognitive capital in the British 1946 birth cohort

Marcus Richards, Alison Stephen, Gita Mishra


The association between education and health has long been discussed; but more recently the question of whether this association is accounted for by cognitive capital has received considerable attention, including in the British birth cohorts.  Following work in the British 1970 cohort we investigated childhood cognition in relation to six health outcomes in midlife linked to risk of cardiovascular disease in the British 1946 cohort.  These outcomes were smoking, physical exercise, healthy dietary choice, obesity, hypertension, and non insulin-dependent diabetes at or by age 53 years.  Childhood cognition was associated with all of these outcomes although for all except exercise and healthy diet this was fully mediated by educational attainment, and partially so by adult socioeconomic attainment.  Cognitive capital plays a role in the accumulation of risk for chronic physical disease in midlife, but it is not a sufficient determinant of this risk, and does not account for the association between education and health outcomes related to this risk.


cognitive capital;cardiovascular risk factors; education; 1946 British birth cohort

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