Long-term moderate alcohol consumption does not exacerbate age-related cognitive decline in healthy, community-dwelling older adults

Front Aging Neurosci. 2015 Jan 5:6:341. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2014.00341. eCollection 2014.


Recent census data has found that roughly 40% of adults 65 years and older not only consume alcohol but also drink more of it than previous generations. Older drinkers are more vulnerable than younger counterparts to the psychoactive effects of alcohol due to natural biological changes that occur with aging. This study was specifically designed to measure the effect of long-term moderate alcohol consumption on cognitive health in older adult drinkers. An extensive battery of validated tests commonly used in aging and substance use literature was used to measure performance in specific cognitive domains, including working memory and attention. An age (young, old) (*) alcohol consumption (light, moderate) factorial study design was used to evaluate the main effects of age and alcohol consumption on cognitive performance. The focus of the study was then limited to light and moderate older drinkers, and whether or not long-term moderate alcohol consumption exacerbated age-related cognitive decline. No evidence was found to support the idea that long-term moderate alcohol consumption in older adults exacerbates age-related cognitive decline. Findings were specific to healthy community dwelling social drinkers in older age and they should not be generalized to individuals with other consumption patterns, like heavy drinkers, binge drinkers or ex-drinkers.

Keywords: aging; alcohol; chronic; cognition; moderate.