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Int J Epidemiol. 2007 Feb;36(1):212-9. Epub 2006 Dec 14.

Cognitive function in childhood and early adulthood and injuries later in life: the Metropolit 1953 male birth cohort.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, University of Southern Denmark, J B Winsløwsvej 9b, 5000 Odense, Denmark.



It has been suggested that cognitive function in childhood is a modifiable risk factor for adult injury. This study examines the relationship between cognitive function measured at the age of 12 and 18 years and fatal and non-fatal injuries later in adult life.


A total of 11 532 males born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1953 were followed from 1978 until 2001 with outcomes (death from and hospital admission for unintentional injury) obtained from national registers. At the age of 12 years, 7987 of these cohort members had completed a questionnaire, which included information on cognitive performance. In addition, cognitive test scores measured on most (90%) cohort members were retrieved from the conscription board records (18 years).


During follow-up, 100 of the men died as a result of and 2123 had been admitted to hospital at least once for injury. Cognitive function measured at both the age of 12 and 18 years was inversely associated with any form of unintentional injury. Adjustment for educational attainment at the age of 18 years attenuated these associations but did not remove them completely. The association was most evident for falls and poisoning, while associations with other injury types were weaker and disappeared after adjustment for educational status. Cognitive function was associated with repeated hospital admissions for injuries as well as length of hospital stay.


We found marked inverse associations between cognitive function measured in ages 12 and 18 years and adult risk of fatal or non-fatal unintentional injury. An overall increase in educational level may result in a reduction in adult injury risk.

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