Maybe Smart People Just Realize that Skipping Work Isn't Good for Career Prospects...

Over the past few days, papers in the UK have been touting a recently released study entitled The association between childhood cognitive ability and adult long-term sickness absence in three British birth cohorts: a cohort study which links intelligence levels to sick leave. From the abstract:

The authors aimed to test the relationship between childhood cognitive function and long-term sick leave in adult life and whether any relationship was mediated by educational attainment, adult social class or adult mental ill-health...The authors used data from the 1946, 1958 and 1970 British birth cohorts. Initial study populations included all live births in 1 week in that year. Follow-up arrangements have differed between the cohorts. 

And from the summary: 

We examined associations between cognitive ability measured in childhood and long-term sickness absence in adult life across three British birth cohorts. In all three cohorts, the effects after adjustment for sex and social class at birth were similar, and all three demonstrated a clear dose–response effect whereby lower childhood cognitive ability was more strongly associated with long-term sick leave. In each cohort, there was little attenuation when previous history of depression was included. There was some attenuation of the effect when adult social class and, particularly, educational attainment was included, and this attenuation was greater for those of lower cognitive ability. This suggests that some of the effect of lower cognitive ability is mediated by educational attainment. For example, low educational attainment might lead to more insecure jobs or more manual jobs that could be more difficult to sustain in the context of disability. However, educational attainment does not fully explain the association.

As foreshadowed in the title of the post, could this explanation gap simply be filled by the idea that smarter people have a better understanding of the consequences of playing hooky? We eagerly await the results of a study by any sociologist with the the moxy to test that hypothesis. Until then we would appreciate reader feedback on additional or substitute causes for the relationship between cognitive ability and sick leave in the comments section below.

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