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Alcohol-Use Disorders Are Linked to Dementia

A study finds a 'strong association,' especially in early-onset cases

A man looks distracted while he drinks

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The study found a strong association between alcohol-use disorders and dementia.

Alcohol-use disorders are a major risk factor in predicting dementia, especially early-onset dementia, a comprehensive study has determined.

In the study, published in this month’s issue of The Lancet Public Health, researchers in France studied all adult hospital admissions in the country from 2008 to 2013. In analyzing the data, they found “a strong association between alcohol-use disorders and dementia.”

Early-onset dementia was clearly linked to alcohol: “Fifty-seven percent of people with a diagnosis of early-onset dementia [before age 65] also had an alcohol-use disorder.”  

Alcohol-use disorders in the study were identified by two categories: “mental and behavioral disorders due to former or current chronic harmful use of alcohol ... or chronic diseases attributable to alcohol-use disorders” (like alcoholic liver disease).

Disorders and consumption rates are not the same, an editorial associated with the study stressed:

“Alcohol-use disorders and alcohol-consumption volumes are related but distinct, and work is needed to clarify whether there is an association of similar magnitude between alcohol-consumption volumes and dementia” or whether other factors are involved.

The authors also noted that the prevalence of studies that highlight “the potential protective effects of modest alcohol use” may have overlooked heavy alcohol use “as a modifiable risk factor for dementia.”