Lifetime alcohol use and cognitive performance in older adults

J Addict Dis. 2017 Jan-Mar;36(1):38-47. doi: 10.1080/10550887.2016.1245029. Epub 2016 Oct 8.

Abstract

Substance use is an important clinical issue in the older adult population. As older adults are susceptible to cognitive disorders, the intersection of the fields of substance use and cognitive neuroscience is an active area of research. Prior studies of alcohol use and cognitive performance are mixed, and inconsistencies may be due to under- or over-adjustment for confounders. This article adds to this literature by conducting a secondary analysis of self-reported lifetime history of alcohol use and cognitive performance in older adults (n = 133). It was hypothesized that current alcohol users would have poorer cognitive performance compared to never/minimal and former alcohol users. Older adult participants were classified into never/minimal alcohol users, former alcohol users, and current alcohol users. A neurocognitive battery included a global cognitive measure and individual measures of attention, memory, fluency, and executive function. A directed acyclic graph-based approach was used to select variables to be included in the multiple linear regression models. Though unadjusted analyses showed some significant associations between alcohol use and cognitive performance, all associations between alcohol use and cognitive performance were eliminated after adjusting for age, education, sex, race, and smoking pack years. Alcohol drink years were not significantly associated with cognitive performance among current and former alcohol users. These results suggest that lifetime alcohol use is not significantly associated with cognitive performance in older adults after adjustment for key confounders. Inconsistencies in prior studies may be due to uncontrolled confounding and/or unnecessary adjustment of mediators and/or colliders.

Keywords: Alcohol; cognition; cognitive; older adult; substance use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests