Monday, January 29, 2018






Smart people are less likely to go mad

That's an easy to understand heading, is it not?  It's my summary of an article titled: "Association of Heritable Cognitive Ability and Psychopathology With White Matter Properties in Children and Adolescents".  It appeared in JAMA Psychiatry. Published online January 24, 2018

By a Norwegian, a German and a Vietnamese (Dag Aln├Žs, Tobias Kaufmann and Nhat Trung Doan), all of whom work at Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway

Abstract

Importance:  Many mental disorders emerge during adolescence, which may reflect a cost of the potential for brain plasticity offered during this period. Brain dysconnectivity has been proposed as a common factor across diagnostic categories.

Objective:  To investigate the hypothesis that brain dysconnectivity is a transdiagnostic phenotype in adolescence with increased susceptibility and symptoms of psychiatric disease.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  We investigated clinical symptoms as well as cognitive function in 6487 individuals aged 8 to 21 years from November 1, 2009, to November 30, 2011, in the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort and analyzed diffusion magnetic resonance imaging brain scans for 748 of the participants.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Independent component analysis was used to derive dimensional psychopathology scores, and genome-wide complex trait analysis was used to estimate its heritability. Multimodal fusion simultaneously modeled contributions of the diffusion magnetic resonance imaging metrics fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, radial diffusivity, L1 (the principal diffusion tensor imaging eigen value), mode of anisotropy, as well as dominant and secondary fiber orientations, and structural connectivity density, and their association with general psychopathology and cognition.

Results:  Machine learning with 10-fold cross-validation and permutation testing in 729 individuals (aged 8 to 22 years; mean [SD] age, 15.1 [3.3] years; 343 females [46%]) revealed significant association with general psychopathology levels (r = 0.24, P < .001) and cognition (r = 0.39, P < .001). A brain white matter pattern reflecting frontotemporal connectivity and crossing fibers in the uncinate fasciculus was the most associated feature for both traits. Univariate analysis across a range of clinical domains and cognitive test scores confirmed its transdiagnostic importance. Both the general psychopathology (16%; SE, 0.095; P = .05) and cognitive (18%; SE, 0.09; P = .01) factor were heritable and showed a negative genetic correlation.

Conclusion and relevance:  Dimensional and heritable general cognitive and psychopathology factors are associated with specific patterns of white matter properties, suggesting that dysconnectivity is a transdiagnostic brain-based phenotype in individuals with increased susceptibility and symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

SOURCE

Comment:  Aren't you glad I summarized that for you?  To be fair, they had to tell you all that stuff to make their point.  And what they say goes well beyond my simple summary. They found that a particular brain feature was associated with (and probably caused) both low IQ and a variety of mental disorders.  And it was all genetically inherited.

So to make it simple again: Some people are born with defective brains.  That's not terribly new news, of course.  What is interesting is that a particular brain feature,  "dysconnectivity", underlies both personality and IQ.  You can be both dumb and off your head at the same time!

And that relates well to something I have been saying for a long time:  That a high IQ tends to be just one symptom of general biological fitness.  "To him that hath, more will be given him", as Jesus said several times (Matthew 13:12 & 25:29; Mark 4:25). There is no equality in nature.  We knew that already but it is nice to see it in a particular brain feature. 


Wednesday, January 24, 2018



IQ: Matzo with sauce get it nearly right

The journal abstract:

The paradox of intelligence: Heritability and malleability coexist in hidden gene-environment interplay.

Sauce, Bruno; Matzel, Louis D.

Abstract

Intelligence can have an extremely high heritability, but also be malleable; a paradox that has been the source of continuous controversy. Here we attempt to clarify the issue, and advance a frequently overlooked solution to the paradox: Intelligence is a trait with unusual properties that create a large reservoir of hidden gene–environment (GE) networks, allowing for the contribution of high genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in IQ. GE interplay is difficult to specify with current methods, and is underestimated in standard metrics of heritability (thus inflating estimates of “genetic” effects). We describe empirical evidence for GE interplay in intelligence, with malleability existing on top of heritability. The evidence covers cognitive gains consequent to adoption/immigration, changes in IQ’s heritability across life span and socioeconomic status, gains in IQ over time consequent to societal development (the Flynn effect), the slowdown of age-related cognitive decline, and the gains in intelligence from early education. The GE solution has novel implications for enduring problems, including our inability to identify intelligence-related genes (also known as IQ’s “missing heritability”), and the loss of initial benefits from early intervention programs (such as “Head Start”). The GE solution can be a powerful guide to future research, and may also aid policies to overcome barriers to the development of intelligence, particularly in impoverished and underprivileged populations.

SOURCE  

Comment:

The above article is in the Psych. Bulletin, a top journal in psychology which is devoted to surveying the research literature on a particular subject and attempting a theoretical integration of it.  Sauce & Matzel, however, don't come up with much. Their concept of gene–environment (GE) networks is really just a rehash of the well-known finding that to maximize your  final IQ you need good environmental influences on top of your genetic given. 

Considering that the article is a research summary, it is however interesting how high the genetic given is rated.  They say that measured IQ is 80% genetic. Around 70% is the figure that has mostly been quoted in the past and people who hate the idea of IQ have on occasions put the figure as low as 50%.

The authors are aware that an enriched (stimulating) environment from early childhood on can bump up IQ but they are also aware that the gain is not permanent once the enrichment fades out. Headstart kids, for instance, test as brighter while in the program but revert to an IQ similar to their peers when they get into normal schooling.

But what the authors conclude from that is, I think, too optimistic.  They seem to think that the environmental enrichment should be kept up into much later life.  What they overlook is that all environmental influences tend to fade out  as maturation goes on and by about age 30 environmental influences seem to zero out entirely.  Identical twins reared apart will have very similar IQs at whatever age that is measured but the greatest similarity occurs when it is measured around age 30.

So growing up is a process of your genetics coming to the fore and the advantages/disadvantages of your environment fading out.  So enriching the environment throughout childhood is pissing into the wind.  What you are trying to manipulate will have less and less influence as maturation goes on and it will have NO final influence.

Sunday, January 7, 2018




Pregnant women who eat up to NINE eggs a day have babies with higher IQs, study suggests

Is this too good to be true?  It is.  Note the word "suggests" above.  It seems to be another case of rodent studies not generalizing to humans.  The key ingredient, choline, does perk up mice babies but the same clear finding has not been found among humans.  The authors of the study reported below set out to do a really tightly controlled study that would settle the matter. 

The tight controls they put in place do indeed make it an admirable study but that also greatly limited their pool of people they could experiment with.  There were only 13 women each in their two experimental groups.  And from a statistical viewpoint that is far to few to rule out chance effects.  They did report statistical significance for their findings but that rules out only purely statistical effects, not unrepresentative sampling effects. So they were aware of obvious criticisms but were not in a position to rule them out.

They were also aware of criticisms of the measuring instrument  they used -- saying it correlates with adult IQ. But they still have the difficulty that IQs at different ages correlate rather poorly and that IQ measured at any time during childhood correlates rather poorly with IQ at age 30 -- which is about when environmental factors cease to be influential. In other words, the younger the child, the less well you are able to predict their final IQ.  And in this study we were dealing with neonates, which is very young indeed.

So it would need much stronger evidence than we have so far to make any policy recommendations.  If you like eggs, eat them. If you don't, there is no cause for concern

I follow the summary article below with the journal abstract



Pregnant women who eat up to nine eggs a day have babies with higher IQs, new research suggests.

Eggs contain high amounts of choline, which boosts infants' memories and abilities to process information.

However, nine is an unusually high number to eat in a day and they are linked to high cholesterol which can be deadly.

Recommendations advise 480mg of the nutrient a day in expectant mothers, however, the study suggests nearly double that amount is required for optimal results.

Yet, the researchers warn many pregnant women fail to even consume the recommended choline intake, which may be due to eggs' reputation for causing raised cholesterol levels, as well as warnings against expectant mothers eating them if undercooked.

On average, one egg yolk contains around 115mg of choline. Other sources include red meat, fish, poultry, legumes and nuts.

The NHS says that mothers-to-be do not need to go on a special diet, but stress it's important to eat a variety of different foods every day to get the right balance of nutrients that she and her baby need.

It recommends eggs for pregnant women but warns you should avoid eating some raw or partially cooked eggs, as there is a risk of salmonella. 

How the research was carried out 

The researchers from Cornell University analyzed 26 pregnant women entering their third trimesters.

Half of the study's participants ate 480mg of choline every day until their delivery, while the remainder consumed 930mg.

The participants' babies were assessed for their information processing speed and memories at four, seven, 10 and 13 months old.

Results reveal babies have significantly faster reaction times if their mothers ate 930mg of choline a day during the final stage of their pregnancy.

Infants are also faster at processing information if their mothers consumed around twice the recommended choline intake every day of their third trimester. 

A person's IQ is partially determined by their memory. 

Study author Marie Caudill said: 'In animal models using rodents, there's widespread agreement that supplementing the maternal diet with additional amounts of this single nutrient has lifelong benefits on offspring cognitive function.

'Our study provides some evidence that a similar result is found in humans.'

The findings were published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

SOURCE

Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: a randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding study

Marie A. Caudill et al.

Abstract

Rodent studies demonstrate that supplementing the maternal diet with choline during pregnancy produces life-long cognitive benefits for the offspring. In contrast, the two experimental studies examining cognitive effects of maternal choline supplementation in humans produced inconsistent results, perhaps because of poor participant adherence and/or uncontrolled variation in intake of choline or other nutrients. We examined the effects of maternal choline supplementation during pregnancy on infant cognition, with intake of choline and other nutrients tightly controlled. Women entering their third trimester were randomized to consume, until delivery, either 480 mg choline/d (n = 13) or 930 mg choline/d (n = 13). Infant information processing speed and visuospatial memory were tested at 4, 7, 10, and 13 mo of age (n = 24). Mean reaction time (RT) averaged across the four ages was significantly faster for infants born to mothers in the 930 (vs. 480) mg choline/d group. This result indicates that maternal consumption of approximately twice the recommended amount of choline during the last trimester improves infant information processing speed. Furthermore, for the 480-mg choline/d group, there was a significant linear effect of exposure duration (infants exposed longer showed faster RTs), suggesting that even modest increases in maternal choline intake during pregnancy may produce cognitive benefits for offspring

SOURCE


Sunday, December 31, 2017



Matt Ridley is wrong on IQ and designer babies

Matt Ridley is sound on a lot of things.  He is a climate skeptic, for instance.  But he has succumbed to political correctness below and ends up with an illogical argument.

Some of his arguments may be correct.  His point that the polygenetic nature of IQ makes genetic modification to increase it impossibly difficult, for instance.  Such is the rapid pace of progress in science, however that I would not rule out it one day becoming possible.

But his final argument -- that intelligence is a collective thing -- is just plain sleight of hand.   He is using "intelligence" where he should be using "achievement". It is true that scientific progress and human achievement generally is the product of a huge collectivity but one person can sometimes make a major contribution -- Einstein, for instance. And if genetic modification towards high IQ becomes a common thing, high IQ could give us the "great leap forward" that Mao longed for. Though what its end might be one can only imagine



Christmas Day marks the birthday of one of the most gifted human beings ever born. His brilliance was of a supernoval intensity, but he was, by all accounts, very far from pleasant company. I refer to Isaac Newton.

Would you like your next child to have the intelligence of a Newton? It may not be long before this is a consumer choice, according to an ambitious new company founded in America a few months ago. Genomic Prediction initially plans to offer people who use in-vitro fertilisation the chance to identify and avoid embryos that would be likely to develop diabetes, late-life osteoporosis, schizophrenia and dwarfism. The key is the application of smart software to gigantic databases of genomic information from the population at large so as to spot dangerous combinations of gene variants. The founders also talk of being able to predict intelligence from genes, at least to some degree.

It is of course already common practice to screen embryos for terrible diseases, but only those simply caused by single genes: cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and so forth. The new idea is to extend this capability to disorders caused by the interaction of many genes, each of small effect: and that is most of them.

This is welcome and potentially ethical, but is it also, after many false starts, the beginning of the slippery slope to designer babies? No, it is not. If anything, the new knowledge will cause such a threat to dissolve.

It is true that intelligence is one of the most strongly heritable human traits, like height. In childhood, among people who get sufficient food and a reasonable education, genes account for about 40 per cent of the variation in IQ. Later in life this rises to more like 80 per cent. If this sounds puzzling, consider this friend of mine: left a bad school at 15, worked as a lorry driver for a big company, which spotted his intelligence and paid for him to attend a top university, where he got a first, rejoined the company and is now a global senior executive: his achievement at 45 better reflects his innate intelligence than his achievement at 15. As a child we don’t get to choose our environments, so clever kids often don’t get to read as many books or do as many mind-bending maths puzzles as they would like, while stupid children read more books and get more maths tutoring than they would if left to their own devices. By adulthood, we are choosing and modifying the life that suits us.

Hence it has always been possible selectively to breed for intelligence. Francis Galton in 1869 pointed out that just as it was easy to ‘obtain by careful selection a permanent breed of dogs or horses gifted with peculiar powers of running, or of doing anything else, so it would be quite practicable to produce a highly gifted race of men by judicious marriages during several consecutive generations’.

However, human beings proved surprisingly unwilling to do this, and most governments eventually gave up trying to coerce them to do it, often with horrific eugenic policies. Then along came artificial insemination and test-tube babies, and surely now we would see a rush to have bright babies, by using sperm banks of Nobel Prize winners? But we did not. People used these technologies to have their own children, not those of Newton-like sperm donors. It is curious
how wrong most experts were about where the demand for IVF would come from: mainly from infertile couples wanting their own children, not fertile people wanting other people’s.

Strange as it may seem to academics, not everybody thinks intelligence matters all that much. They would rather have good- looking or athletic or happy or kind children than super-bright ones. And healthy comes first for almost everybody, so if there is any risk of poor health as a result of selecting an embryo for intelligence, people will, and for all we know very wisely, avoid it.

That is the first reason we will not see designer-intelligence any time soon: there will be little demand, especially if the procedure carries risks. For 50 years we have fretted about designer babies every time there is a new reproductive technology: mitochondrial donation and cloning were the most recent reason for dusting off the old canard.

The second reason is that the genes involved are too numerous and too feeble to be of any practical use. For a long time there was a puzzling gap between what studies of twins and adopted children said about the heritability of intelligence (that it was high), and what genetic surveys found (next to nothing). The first genome-wide association studies — or GWAS — came up empty when looking for gene variants associated with high IQ.

That has changed, thanks to much bigger sample sizes, such as the UK Biobank, which has looked inside the genomes of half a million people of a certain age. Thus, a recent study of nearly 80,000 people, published in May, found 40 new gene variants associated with intelligence. Another study  published in Nature of 1,238 extremely gifted intellectuals turned up more gene variants, including three in a gene called ADAM12.

But the more we find, the more ridiculous the idea of selecting for intelligence looks. Each variant seems to have a small effect, so you would need to fiddle with scores of genes to make a child bright, and fiddling with them might have unforeseen consequences for the health of the child. ADAM12, for example, is hard at work in every organ of the body.

As for the concern that genomic selection for intelligence, if it comes, will be available to the rich but not the poor — well, the same is true for good education. Opportunities to buy the best genes for your children will be dwarfed for decades to come by the ability of the rich to buy the best education for their children. If you must do something, do something about that instead: and preferably do so by making all education as good as the best, rather than as bad as the worst.

Finally, staring us in the face is a more obvious reason why intelligent designer babies will not happen soon and if they do, will not matter much. Individual intelligence is overrated. This is partly the well-worn argument that lots of other characteristics determine success, especially energy and diligence. We know people who are too bright to be decisive; or conversely achieve much in spite of their apparent disadvantages.

However, I mean something more than this. I mean that human achievements are always and everywhere collective. Every object and service you use is the product of different minds working together to invent or manage something that is way beyond the capacity of any individual mind. This is why central planning does not work. Ten million people eat lunch in London most days; how the heck they get what they want and when and where, given that a lot of them decide at the last minute, is baffling. Were there a London lunch commissioner to organise it, he would fail badly. Individual decisions integrated by price signals work, and work very well indeed.

And here is the key insight from evolution. Our brains grew big long, long before we achieved civilisation. We’ve had 1,200cc of intelligence for half a million years: even Neanderthals had huge brains. For 99 per cent of that time we were just another hard-pressed species, as bottle-nosed dolphins are today, and around 75,000 years ago we teeter-ed on the brink of extinction.

What changed was not some bright spark of a new gene being turned on, but that we began to exchange and specialise, to create collective intelligence, rather than rely on individual braininess. To put it another way, dozens of stupid people in a room who talk to each other will achieve far more than an equal number of clever people who don’t. The internet only underlines this point. Human intelligence is a distributed, collaborative phenomenon.

SOURCE

Wednesday, December 20, 2017



Levin: The ‘So-Called’ Conservative Intellectual Movement Is on Life Support

Levin in fact concludes that "there really is no conservative intellectual movement" and that is right.  But it is right for a good reason. It overlooks what an "intellectual" is.  An intellectual is someone who puts a sophisticated gloss on a simple idea.  And the great headquarters of simple ideas is the Left.  They never think anything through, which is why their policies are always disastrous -- check Obamacare

In fact Leftists have only one idea:  "If people won't behave the way we want, then we will MAKE them behave. Compared to the complexities of libertarian policy proposals, their ideas are childish and unoriginal.

So when someone comes along who can make Leftist thinking sound half-decent, he is greeted rapturously, hailed as an "intellectual" and given lots of publicity.

Conservatives don't need that.  Between the Bible and America's founding documents, they have all the guidance they need to create a good society and a good life for its people.  They already have policies and ideas that work and are well-known. Erudite men like Levin can help publicize those mighty founding ideas and show how they apply in modern times but that is just a badly-needed educative role, not any kind of new discovery.

I can't put it better than Reagan did:
"In all of that time I won a nickname, 'The Great Communicator.' But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation -- from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries."

So we can safely leave intellectuals to the Left.  We don't need them.  The average IQ of Leftists and Rightists is about the same but we apply our minds to practical problems and the real world, not high flown theories, speculations and justifications for hate.



On his nationally syndicated radio talk show Thursday, host Mark Levin began his program’s opening monologue on a somber note, suggesting that the "so-called conservative intellectual movement" is "on life support."

"[T]he so-called conservative intellectual movement is very weak right now – very weak," stated Mark Levin. "In fact, I think it’s on life support." Below is a transcript of Levin’s remarks from his show on Thursday:

"From time to time, often actually, I sit back and I watch what’s going on in the news or go on the internet and start reading various stories and so forth, and then I try to think back to history and philosophy and try to think back to our founding and try to make sense of it all.

"The vast majority of what comes across the television, what comes across the internet, what comes across the radio, in terms of news, is about the federal government. Maybe it’s about a congressman, maybe it’s about the Supreme Court, maybe it’s about a tax bill – it’s about the federal government.

"And this really is a massive alteration of what the founders of this country intended, that we would be spending so much time talking about the federal government, fearing the federal government, trying to win elections so we can control the federal government, expanding the federal government. It was never supposed to be this way.

"And you can see the deleterious effects.

"I said yesterday that, as a result of the conservative movement, we’ve had a lot of electoral victories at the federal level, but very few advances in terms of rolling back what the left has done and advancing liberty.

"And I believe that. I believe men and women, most of you, believe in America’s founding principles, believe in Americanism – Americanism.

"I also believe – it’s a sorry truth – that the so-called conservative intellectual movement is very weak right now – very weak. In fact, I think it’s on life support.

"You know, I write books about liberty, and I write books about the Declaration and the Constitution. And I write books about Supreme Court rulings. I write books about natural law and liberty and what all that means.

"The reason that most of these books sell about a quarter of a million copies or more every time I write them – which is by far the largest among conservatives, and yet receives virtually no attention among the fledgling, barely existing conservative intellectual movement – is because there really is no conservative intellectual movement. Or it’s very small, it’s very weak."

SOURCE

Thursday, December 7, 2017



The poor get sick sooner and die younger in both the USA and the UK

In the later age cohorts, poor people are 3 to 4 times likelier to get ill and die than are wealthy people.  And, sadly for the authors below, the wonderful universal health care in the UK made no difference.

Their findings are in fact what always emerges when social class variables -- in this case wealth -- are studied.  Poverty is a major influence on death and all sorts of disease.  But medical researchers fear political incorrectness if they mention social class as an influence on their findings so ignore it for around 98% of the time in their research reports.  So it is worthwhile noting here one of the occasions when they have bitten the bullet.

They have several possible explanations for their findings and all their suggestions probably have some merit.  But they overlook the elephant in the room: genetic differences.  If genetics is not an influence on your lifespan, what would be? 

So what genetic influence could explain the findings?  What widely-influential genetically determined human characteristic do we know of?  At the risk of sounding like a cracked-record, let me mention our old friend IQ again. I am repetitious about IQ because nature is. No matter what you study, IQ very frequently seems to pop up as an influence.  And I just report the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth -- vastly incorrect  though that sadly is these days.

Some people are born more functional in general. All their bits work well, including their brain. So they have high IQs. And it is very well established that high IQ people both live longer and are  more likely to get rich.  The old challenge: "If you are so smart, how come you aren't rich?" is well founded.  So the findings below can be explained as showing that long lifespans are largely inborn and that those so born are also likely to be rich because they will also have high IQs.  We already knew that from IQ research but it is nice to see the same effects emerging in medical research



Wealth-Associated Disparities in Death and Disability in the United States and England

Lena K. Makaroun et al.

Abstract

Importance:  Low income has been associated with poor health outcomes. Owing to retirement, wealth may be a better marker of financial resources among older adults.

Objective:  To determine the association of wealth with mortality and disability among older adults in the United States and England.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  The US Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) are nationally representative cohorts of community-dwelling older adults. We examined 12 173 participants enrolled in HRS and 7599 enrolled in ELSA in 2002. Analyses were stratified by age (54-64 years vs 66-76 years) because many safety-net programs commence around age 65 years. Participants were followed until 2012 for mortality and disability.

Exposures:  Wealth quintile, based on total net worth in 2002.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Mortality and disability, defined as difficulty performing an activity of daily living.

Results:  A total of 6233 US respondents and 4325 English respondents aged 54 to 64 years (younger cohort) and 5940 US respondents and 3274 English respondents aged 66 to 76 years (older cohort) were analyzed for the mortality outcome. Slightly over half of respondents were women (HRS: 6570, 54%; ELSA: 3974, 52%). A higher proportion of respondents from HRS were nonwhite compared with ELSA in both the younger (14% vs 3%) and the older (13% vs 3%) age cohorts. We found increased risk of death and disability as wealth decreased. In the United States, participants aged 54 to 64 years in the lowest wealth quintile (Q1) (≤$39 000) had a 17% mortality risk and 48% disability risk over 10 years, whereas in the highest wealth quintile (Q5) (>$560 000) participants had a 5% mortality risk and 15% disability risk (mortality hazard ratio [HR], 3.3; 95% CI, 2.0-5.6; P < .001; disability subhazard ratio [sHR], 4.0; 95% CI, 2.9-5.6; P < .001). In England, participants aged 54 to 64 years in Q1 (≤£34,000) had a 16% mortality risk and 42% disability risk over 10 years, whereas Q5 participants (>£310,550) had a 4% mortality risk and 17% disability risk (mortality HR, 4.4; 95% CI, 2.7-7.0; P < .001; disability sHR, 3.0; 95% CI, 2.1-4.2; P < .001). In 66- to 76-year-old participants, the absolute risks of mortality and disability were higher, but risk gradients across wealth quintiles were similar. When adjusted for sex, age, race, income, and education, HR for mortality and sHR for disability were attenuated but remained statistically significant.

Conclusions and Relevance:  Low wealth was associated with death and disability in both the United States and England. This relationship was apparent from age 54 years and continued into later life. Access to health care may not attenuate wealth-associated disparities in older adults.

SOURCE

Wednesday, October 25, 2017



Herrnstein & Murray are still right  -- and very relevant to the healthcare debate

The poor die young.  That is the simplest summary of the latest study looking at the association between wealth and health.  Whenever it is examined, a correlation between social class and health seems to emerge.  The findings surveyed  by Hernstein and Murray are the best known evidence of that but Herrnstein & Murray wrote over two decades ago so it is interesting to see that nothing has changed. Herrnstein died about the time the book was released so was spared the torrent of abuse that was poured out on the scholarly head of Charles Murray when his findings became known.  He survived the onslsaught however and is still making waves.  The attack on him at Middlebury college got a lot of press recently.

There is however a certain vagueness about what you call social class and there are distinct differences between Britain and America in that regard.  And although its importance to social class is generally accepted, wealth is rarely examined in medical research. It is usually considered to be "too sensitive"  for questions about it to be included in surveys.  So the findings below are valuable in filling a gap. The article is titled: "Wealth-Associated Disparities in Death and Disability in the United States and England" and it appeared in JAMA, a leading medical journal.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, reaction the article gets.  It is unlikely that the authors will receive the abuse that was heaped on Charles Murray.  After the first decade or so of huffing and puffing, the Left seem to have bowed to reality.  Mention of class effects on health are these days normally addressed, if at all, as just another example of injustice.  What was once seen as a politically incorrect attack on the poor is now usually seen as an argument for helping the poor in various ways.  The Left ended up assimilating the effect into their "social justice" narrative.

And what cure do the Left advocate for this injustice?  Easy! Single payer health-insurance.  It was one of the arguments behind the agony of Obamacare.  And that makes the study below of exceptional interest -- because it compared American health results with results from a country that has had single-payer healthcare for a very long time: England.  So the poor should do much better in England?  Right?  Wrong!  The wealth effect was similar in both countries.  So this study is exceptionally relevant to one of the most important issues in American politics today.

Academic prose is normally too dense for non-academics to make much out of it but the place where you are most likely to find plain speaking is the set of "Conclusions" at the end of the article.  So let me reproduce in full the "Conclusions" of the present article:

"We found that lower wealth was associated with higher mortality and disability in older adults in both the United States and England. This relationship was apparent from age 54 years and continued into later life. This study found no evidence that providing state-sponsored health insurance from birth (England), or providing state-sponsored health insurance later in life (United States), eliminated wealth-associated health disparities. Our study suggests that policy makers interested in decreasing mortality and function disparities in older adults should take a broad view and consider interventions beyond providing access to health care."

So there was effectively no difference between America and England in health outcomes, including death.  The poor get sicker and die younger in both countries at roughly the same rate.  So the authors are in fact shooting down one of the important talking points of the Left. What they mean by "interventions beyond providing access to health care" is to make the poor richer.  They wisely don't go in to how you achieve that, though. So this is an article of unusual political importance. 

It also has important implications for medical research generally. Probably because of political correctness, epidemiological research in particular simply ignores social class.  If it is mentioned at all, the only index of it used is education.  But my research showed long ago that education misses a lot. You can have highly educated poor people (e.g. the iconic Ph.Ds doing burger flipping in McDonalds) to dropouts making billions (e.g. Bill Gates).  You really do need to examine wealth directly.

But medical researchers just don't do that most of the time. And that very often makes the significance of their findings moot.  If, for instance, you find that big drinkers of pop die young, a medical researcher would normally conclude that pop kills you. They are that stupid. If you happen to know that the poor drink more pop, however, you can say (and I have often said it) that the conclusion is nonsense. If wealth had been included in the analysis, you will probably find that the "effect" of pop on health was in fact the effect of wealth discrepancies.

So I suppose it is a lot to ask for but one hopes that future medical researchers might use the article below to make some mention of what their research was not able to examine.

The authors below do not venture into much consideration of WHY the poor die young but do mention various environmental stressors.  I would add however that genetic influences are at work too. IQ is a much neglected index of social class.  The rich are smarter. The old challenge, "if you are smart, how come you are not rich?, has much justice to it. We can probably all think of exceptions but higher IQ does help you to figure out ways of making money.



Wealth-Associated Disparities in Death and Disability in the United States and England

Lena K. Makaroun et al.

Abstract

Importance:  Low income has been associated with poor health outcomes. Owing to retirement, wealth may be a better marker of financial resources among older adults.

Objective:  To determine the association of wealth with mortality and disability among older adults in the United States and England.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  The US Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) are nationally representative cohorts of community-dwelling older adults. We examined 12 173 participants enrolled in HRS and 7599 enrolled in ELSA in 2002. Analyses were stratified by age (54-64 years vs 66-76 years) because many safety-net programs commence around age 65 years. Participants were followed until 2012 for mortality and disability.

Exposures:  Wealth quintile, based on total net worth in 2002.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Mortality and disability, defined as difficulty performing an activity of daily living.

Results:  A total of 6233 US respondents and 4325 English respondents aged 54 to 64 years (younger cohort) and 5940 US respondents and 3274 English respondents aged 66 to 76 years (older cohort) were analyzed for the mortality outcome. Slightly over half of respondents were women (HRS: 6570, 54%; ELSA: 3974, 52%). A higher proportion of respondents from HRS were nonwhite compared with ELSA in both the younger (14% vs 3%) and the older (13% vs 3%) age cohorts. We found increased risk of death and disability as wealth decreased.

In the United States, participants aged 54 to 64 years in the lowest wealth quintile (Q1) (≤$39 000) had a 17% mortality risk and 48% disability risk over 10 years, whereas in the highest wealth quintile (Q5) (>$560 000) participants had a 5% mortality risk and 15% disability risk (mortality hazard ratio [HR], 3.3; 95% CI, 2.0-5.6; P < .001; disability subhazard ratio [sHR], 4.0; 95% CI, 2.9-5.6; P < .001).

In England, participants aged 54 to 64 years in Q1 (≤£34,000) had a 16% mortality risk and 42% disability risk over 10 years, whereas Q5 participants (>£310,550) had a 4% mortality risk and 17% disability risk (mortality HR, 4.4; 95% CI, 2.7-7.0; P < .001; disability sHR, 3.0; 95% CI, 2.1-4.2; P < .001). In 66- to 76-year-old participants, the absolute risks of mortality and disability were higher, but risk gradients across wealth quintiles were similar. When adjusted for sex, age, race, income, and education, HR for mortality and sHR for disability were attenuated but remained statistically significant.

Conclusions and Relevance:  Low wealth was associated with death and disability in both the United States and England. This relationship was apparent from age 54 years and continued into later life. Access to health care may not attenuate wealth-associated disparities in older adults.

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