Teens with Fighting Injuries Have Declines in IQ

Release Date: August 13, 2013 | By Valerie DeBenedette, HBNS Contributing Writer
Research Source: Journal of Adolescent Health


  • Teens who are seriously injured in a fight show a reduction in IQ over time.
  • Young women who were seriously injured while fighting had larger declines in IQ than young men.
Follow us on Facebook

Teenagers who have been seriously injured in a fight show a reduction in intelligence and cognitive ability, according to a large study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“The results indicated that males suffer a loss in IQ roughly equivalent to missing an entire year of school,” said Joseph A. Schwartz, lead author and a research assistant and doctoral candidate at Florida State University in Tallahassee. “Previous studies have suggested that complicated or repeated head injuries can result in diminished levels of information processing and language fluidity, which indicates that overall intelligence may be affected as well,” Schwartz said.

The findings come from an analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which was conducted in three waves between 1994 and 2002 and included nearly 15,000 young people who were between ages 12 and 21 in 1994. They were surveyed about a wide range of topics, including how many times they had been in a physical fight in the previous 12 months that caused any injury serious enough to require medical attention. Verbal IQ was also assessed.

7.2 percent of the overall sample experienced at least one serious injury due to fighting (10.2 percent for males and 4.5 percent for females) and each fighting related injury resulted in a loss of 1.89 IQ points. Young women who had been injured in a fight seemed to fare worse, dropping 3 IQ points.

However, since the study determined only that injuries had occurred and not what types of injuries occurred, it is not known whether head injuries created a more serious cognitive problem than injuries elsewhere to the body. "Another possibility is that a physical fight, even one that does not cause injury, may contribute to cognitive decline by causing physical stress," said Richard A. Lipton, professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the Bronx and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Neurology. He noted that the magnitude of the injuries was also not explored since the survey only asked about injuries that required medical attention, which means that a minor injury has the same value as a severe concussion or unconsciousness.

Why girls showed a greater loss in cognitive function than boys is not known. There may be physiological differences between boys and girls that allow boys to withstand more severe physical damage than girls, noted Schwartz. The difference may also be due to a reporting bias, said Lipton, since boys may be more likely to remember and report a fight injury because fighting may be viewed as more acceptable for boys than it is for girls.

TERMS OF USE: This story is protected by copyright. When reproducing any material, including interview excerpts, attribution to the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, is required. While the information provided in this news story is from the latest peer-reviewed research, it is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment recommendations. For medical questions or concerns, please consult a health care provider.

For More Information:

Please reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at (202) 387-2829 or hbns-editor@cfah.org

Journal of Adolescent Health: Contact Tor Berg at (415) 502-1373 or tor.berg@ucsf.edu or visit www.jahonline.org

Schwartz JA, Beaver KA. (2013). Serious fighting-related injuries produce a significant reduction in intelligence. J Adol Health.

Tags for this article:
Children and Young People's Health   Health and Education   Peer Influence   Mental Health   Accidents and Safety   Promote your Health  

Comments on this article
Please note: CFAH reserves the right to moderate all comments posted to the Health Behavior News Service. Any inappropriate postings will be removed.

No comments have been entered yet.