Education attainment, intelligence and covid-19: A mendelian randomization study

Gloria Hoi Yee Li, Stanley Kam Ki Lam, Ian Chi Kei Wong, Jody Kwok Pui Chu, Ching Lung Cheung

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Evidence of socioeconomic inequality in COVID-19-related outcomes is emerging, with a higher risk of infection and mortality observed among individuals with lower education attainment. We aimed to evaluate the potential interventions against COVID-19 from the socioeconomic perspective, including improvement in education and intelligence. Methods: With a two-sample Mendelian randomization approach using summary statistics from the largest genome-wide association meta-analysis, univariable analysis was adopted to evaluate the total causal effects of genetically determined education attainment and intelligence on COVID-19 outcomes. Multivariable analysis was performed to dissect the potential mechanisms. Results: Genetic predisposition to higher education attainment by 1 SD (4.2 years) was independently associated with reduced risk of COVID-19 severity (OR = 0.508 [95% CI: 0.417–0.617]; p < 0.001). Genetically higher education attainment also lowered the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization (0.685 [0.593–0.791]; p < 0.001), but the association was attenuated after adjustment for beta estimates of intelligence in multivariable analysis. Genetically higher intelligence was associated with reduced risk of COVID-19 hospitalization (0.780 [0.655–0.930]; p = 0.006), with attenuation of association after adjustment for education attainment. Null association was observed for genetically determined education attainment and intelligence with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Conclusion: Education may act independently and jointly with intelligence in improving the COVID-19 outcomes. Improving education may potentially alleviate the COVID-19-related health inequality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4870
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Education
  • Intelligence
  • Mendelian randomization
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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