A new study by a team of Danish researchers has found that wine drinkers tend to be smarter, wealthier and more stable psychologically than nondrinkers and beer drinkers -- factors that are associated with better health and may explain the connection between drinking wine and having a lower risk of certain diseases.
"Our results suggest that wine drinking is associated with optimal social, intellectual and personality functioning, " wrote the authors of the study, called "Better Psychological Functioning and Higher Social Status May Largely Explain the Apparent Health Benefits of Wine."
Previous studies have found that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages may reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes and may also provide other health benefits. Some of that research has shown that drinking red wine provides more health benefits than drinking only beer or liquor.
The Danish study, reported in the Aug. 12 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine, a journal published by the American Medical Association, focuses on wine consumption among young Danish adults. The researchers examined 693 people -- 363 men and 330 women -- who were born at Copenhagen University Hospital between September 1959 and December 1961 and whose birth records contained information on their parents' educational level and socioeconomic status.
During the period from November 1990 to October 1994, the individuals, whose ages ranged from 29 and 34 years old, filled out intelligence tests, personality exams and questionnaires on their typical weekly alcohol consumption.
The individuals were divided into four groups: wine drinkers (94 individuals), beer drinkers (90), those who drank wine and beer (340) and abstainers (169). (The researchers found that liquor was consumed in inconsequential sums and did not include it separately in the data.)
Among wine drinkers, men tended to consume 3.5 servings a week, while women had 6 servings. (One serving was defined as 12 grams of alcohol; the average glass of wine contains 10 to 11 grams of alcohol.) Male beer drinkers downed an average of 25.2 servings a week, while female beer drinkers had only 10.7 servings. Those who drank both beer and wine consumed a weekly average of 17.8 servings for men and 10 servings for women.
"Wine drinking was significantly associated with higher IQ, higher parental educational level and higher socioeconomic status," the researchers wrote. "Beer drinking was significantly associated with lower scores on the same variables."
The authors speculated, "Consequently, the association between drinking habits and social and psychological characteristics, in large part, may explain the apparent health benefits of wine."
The researchers found that the average IQ of a person who drinks beer only is about 97 points, while the average IQ of a wine drinker is close to 108 -- an 11 point difference. Those who drank both beer and wine scored an average of 104.5 on their tests, and abstainers averaged around 101 points.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Erik Mortensen, science director for the Institute for Preventative Medicine in Copenhagen, warned against drinking wine in order to become smarter, based on these findings.
"I do not believe that there are ingredients in wine that may raise people's IQ," said Mortensen. "In fact, because our sample consisted of relatively young adults -- most with moderate consumption -- it is unlikely that our results reflect any long-term effects of beer or wine. I would not recommend drinking wine before a test or exam. But I certainly believe that moderate wine-drinking may improve people's quality of life -- and possibly their mental and physical health."
The study also found that wine drinkers are less neurotic, have less anxiety, tend to be less depressed or delusional, and even have fewer psychotic thoughts than their beer-drinking counterparts.
Mortensen believes it is important to remember that all of the subjects are Danish. "Drinking patterns are a sociocultural phenomenon that varies from country to country," he said.
"Our results from Denmark reflect the fact that Danes have taken up wine-drinking only during the last 25 years. In other countries, such as Italy, beer-drinking is a new habit, and it is quite possible that a comparison of Italian beer and wine drinkers would show quite different results from ours."