The relationship between alcohol use and dementia in adults aged more than 60 years: a combined analysis of prospective, individual-participant data from 15 international studies

AIM: To synthesize international findings on the alcohol-dementia relationship, including representation from low- and middle-income countries.

METHODS: Individual participant data meta-analysis of 15 prospective epidemiological cohort studies from countries situated in six continents. Cox regression investigated the dementia risk associated with alcohol use in older adults aged over 60 years. Additional analyses assessed the alcohol-dementia relationship in the sample stratified by sex and by continent. Participants included 24 478 community dwelling individuals without a history of dementia at baseline and at least one follow-up dementia assessment. The main outcome measure was all-cause dementia as determined by clinical interview.

RESULTS: At baseline, the mean age across studies was 71.8 (standard deviation = 7.5, range = 60-102 years), 14 260 (58.3%) were female and 13 269 (54.2%) were current drinkers. During 151 636 person-years of follow-up, there were 2124 incident cases of dementia (14.0 per 1000 person-years). When compared with abstainers, the risk for dementia was lower in occasional [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.78; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.68-0.89], light-moderate (HR = 0.78; 95% CI = 0.70-0.87) and moderate-heavy drinkers (HR = 0.62; 95% CI = 0.51-0.77). There was no evidence of differences between life-time abstainers and former drinkers in terms of dementia risk (HR = 0.98; 95% CI = 0.81-1.18). In dose-response analyses, moderate drinking up to 40 g/day was associated with a lower risk of dementia when compared with lif-time abstaining. Among current drinkers, there was no consistent evidence for differences in terms of dementia risk. Results were similar when the sample was stratified by sex. When analysed at the continent level, there was considerable heterogeneity in the alcohol-dementia relationship.

CONCLUSIONS: Abstinence from alcohol appears to be associated with an increased risk for all-cause dementia. Among current drinkers, there appears to be no consistent evidence to suggest that the amount of alcohol consumed in later life is associated with dementia risk.

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