Drinking too much in middle age can lead to memory loss in later life, a study has found.
Scientists questioned 6,542 American middle-aged adults about their past alcohol consumption and assessed their mental abilities over eight years.
They found a history of problem drinking — described as alcohol use disorders (AUDs) — more than doubled the risk of developing severe memory impairment.
Lead researcher Dr Iain Lang, from the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “We already know there is an association between dementia risk and levels of current alcohol consumption — that understanding is based on asking older people how much they drink and then observing whether they develop problems.
“But this is only one part of the puzzle and we know little about the consequences of alcohol consumption earlier in life. What we did here is investigate the relatively unknown association between having a drinking problem at any point in life and experiencing problems with memory later in life.”
He added: “This finding — that middle-aged people with a history of problem drinking more than double their chances of memory impairment when they are older — suggests . . . that this is a public health issue that needs to be addressed.”
Problem drinking was identified using the Cage (cut down, annoyed, guilty, eye-opener) questionnaire. The findings appear in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
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