Middle-aged adults with a history of alcohol use disorders have more than double the risk of developing severe memory impairment later in life, a study found.
Researchers looked at the association between history of alcohol misuse and severe cognitive and memory impairment in more than 6,500 middle-aged adults from the Health and Retirement Study, starting in 1992 and reassessed biannually from 1996 through 2010. Alcohol misuse was assessed with the 3-item modified CAGE questionnaire, which eliminated the question about cutting down on drinking because the behavior is common in those over 50, which reduces the questions discriminatory value, the authors noted. Memory was assessed at the final follow-up evaluation using the 35-item modified Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status, with incident severe cognitive impairment defined as a score ≤8, and incident severe memory impairment defined as a score ≤1 on a 20-item memory subscale.
Results appeared in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
During the nearly 2 decades of follow-up, 90 participants experienced severe cognitive impairment and 74 participants experienced severe memory impairment. History of alcohol use was associated with severe memory impairment (odds ratio [OR], 2.21; 95% CI, 1.27 to 3.85; P=0.01), while there was non-statistically significant trend for severe cognitive impairment (OR, 1.80; 95% CI, 0.97 to 3.33; P=0.06).
“Gaining greater insight into the role comorbid conditions, such as (alcohol use disorders) AUDs, play in the natural history of dementia may lead to new opportunities for prevention,” the authors wrote. “The CAGE questionnaire may offer clinicians a practical way to identify individuals at risk of adverse dementia-related outcomes who may benefit from interventions targeting AUDs.”