Home > Archive > Volume 61, No. 1 > This paper

Is Gout Related to Achievement? Testing the Uric Acid Hypothesis in the Vietnam Experience Project

Emil O. W. Kirkegaard and Helmuth Nyborg


Published: 2020/09/01


There are a few scattered reports that uric acid level predicts various forms of academic achievement beyond any associations with intelligence, but all these studies are old and small. Given the potential importance of this relationship for interventions, there is a need for a more recent, larger study. We use archival data from the Vietnam Experience Study, in which 4,454 US veterans were subjected to detailed psychological and physical examinations and blood analysis around age 38. Uric acid was not measured directly, but a well-known clinical manifestation of this is gout, which was measured as a binary diagnosis with a prevalence of 86 out of 4,454 (1.9%). We used regressions to examine the predictive ability of gout for education, occupational status, and income, both alone and with covariates (intelligence, age, race). We find neither main effects nor interaction effects of gout on any outcome measure. Analysis of medical history data suggested the diagnoses were likely reliable. Analysis of the NHANES 2017 dataset, which contains both gout diagnosis and uric acid level measures, however, suggests that our results have low statistical precision. Thus, more large-scale studies are needed to examine this hypothesis.

   Download PDF